More Ammunition for Social Workers to Encourage Exercise
New study results from the University of Kansas bolster the adage that “heart healthy is brain healthy.” The investigation shows neighborhoods that motivate walking can stave off cognitive decline in older adults. Easy-to-walk communities resulted in better outcomes both for physical health – such as lower body mass and blood pressure – and cognition (such as better memory) in the 25 people with mild Alzheimer’s disease and 39 older adults without cognitive impairment. According to University of Kansas Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychology Amber Watts “when the environment presents challenges that are reasonable and within a person’s ability level, it keeps our bodies and minds healthy.” “We need that stimulation. With regard to the complexity of neighborhood street layouts – for example, the number of turns required getting from point A to point B – our results demonstrate that more complex neighborhoods are associated with preserved cognitive performance over time. We think this may be because mental challenges are good for us. They help keep us active and working at that optimal level instead of choosing the path of least resistance.”
Although these findings were the result of a study of seniors living at home, undoubtedly, the same theory translates for seniors residing in independent and assisted care communities. The study found that intricate community layouts might help to keep cognition sharp, rather than serve as a source of confusion in older adults. While we certainly recognize the desirability of wellness programs and the importance of exercise, the Kansas studies offers interesting insights into the importance of simply walking to and from meals and other activities.
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