Gait (a person's manner of walking) is increasingly viewed as an important indicator of health for seniors.
Changes in gait for elderly people could increase the risk of falling leading to painful injury or even death. Also, if walking slows down or becomes erratic as we age, it may be an early sign of dementia or even Alzheimer's disease.
A study at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine has found that 'Executive function,' which takes place in the brain’s frontal lobe and is associated with complex planning, is critical when walking while talking. In fact, the levels of activation in this brain region while walking and talking is a good predictor of future falls and suggests that there are changes in the brain that show up before clinical signs, like slow gait.
Is there hope for people who may show early signs of dementia or Alzheimer's Disease from slower gait?
Several studies suggest there is:
Just one walk a day has an enormous effect on the preservation of mental faculties. A study conducted in Hawaii involving 2,257 male participants between the ages of 71 and 93 proved that a daily three-kilometer stroll reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s and other types of mental dementia by half. A long-term study of 18,000 women (the Nurses’ Health Study) proved the positive effects of regular exercise on mental capacity.
A study conducted in early 2004 by the Beckman Institute at the University of Illinois proved that people who are physically fit have significantly shorter response times, can concentrate better and make fewer mistakes. In a nutshell, walking is good brain-training, regardless of age.
A research team from the University of Erlangen, Germany, discovered that power walking allowed elderly people to improve the brain’s ‘executive control function,' or in other words, planning, coordination, structuring, response times and concentration.
So, we clearly need to exercise to keep our brain healthy as we age. Is there anything else we can do?
One idea may be to improve what we put on our feet when we exercise.
A study at Swiss Federal Institute of Technology examined gait of test subjects in various kinds of footwear including the Swiss air-cushion shoe - "kyBoot."
The kyBoot was shown to provide greater movement because it has an unstable sole. This greater movement requires more coordination and strength of the feet and the entire body. The wearer can also feel the ground through the sole, boosting confidence while walking and stimulating foot sensitivity.
Symptoms such as gait disturbances and coordination/balance disorders can, therefore, be addressed effectively with an elastic and dynamic shoe. Affected individuals can perform daily, adapted training with the unique footwear independently just by walking.
So, to improve gait, exercise and increase your freedom of movement, get out there and walk!
Wearing a correctly engineered shoe for gait training will drastically improve the quality of exercise for both mind and body, giving you an edge when it comes to fighting neurological disorders such as dementia and Alzheimer's!
Your body and mind will thank you for years to come.
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