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Seniors, 18 Holes of Golf Might Make You Smarter
  • Posted October 18, 2023

Seniors, 18 Holes of Golf Might Make You Smarter

Want to do something to protect your thinking skills as you age? Swing that golf club or go for a walk.

A new study found that walking about 3.7 miles or playing 18 holes of golf improved cognitive function. Nordic walking, a type of full-body walking using poles, showed the same benefit.

"These findings underscore the value of age-appropriate aerobic exercise, such as golf, Nordic walking and regular walking, in maintaining and enhancing cognitive function among older adults," said first author Julia Kettinen, a doctoral researcher at the University of Eastern Finland.

"Previous research has shown that exercise also holds promise as a potential strategy for those experiencing cognitive decline," she said in a university news release.

For the study, 25 healthy golfers age 65 and older participated in three bouts of intense aerobic exercise -- golf, walking and Nordic walking -- in a real-life environment, maintaining their typical brisk pace.

The researchers then assessed cognitive function using a pair of tests that measure functions such as attention, processing speed and demanding skills such as task-switching ability.

They also collected blood samples to measure two chemicals -- neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and cathepsin B (CTSB) -- believed to reflect the benefits of exercise in the brain.

Participants wore fitness monitoring devices to monitor their distance, duration, pace, energy expenditure and steps. An ECG sensor with a chest strap monitored heart rate.

While lower cognitive functions such as attention and processing speed improved, no significant effects on levels BDNF and CTSB were seen.

Both types of walking were associated with enhanced executive functioning. Executive skills are key to planning, organizing and staying focused.

Researchers from the University of Edinburgh in the United Kingdom and ETH Z├╝rich in Switzerland also participated in the study.

The findings were published in the October issue of BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine.

More information

The Arthritis Foundation has more on Nordic walking.

SOURCE: University of Eastern Finland, news release, Oct. 16, 2023

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