Walking Doesn't Impair Thinking Ability Say University of Michigan Researchers

Posted on May 11, 2014

Researchers at the University of Michigan conducted experiments to see if walking hinders a person's ability to think. The experiments involved a treadmill and a spatial working memory test. Young, healthy participants were asked to memorize numbers and their placement on a grid, and then enter the numbers correctly with a keypad while walking at different speeds as well as when standing still. The researchers found that at every walking speed and while standing still the participants entered about half the numbers correctly. The researchers say our brains recall just as much information while walking as while standing still.

Julia Kline, a U-M doctoral candidate in biomedical engineering and first author on the study, says, "We're saying that at least for this task, which is fairly complicated, walking and thinking does not compromise your thinking ability at all."

The researchers also used high-density electroencephalography to determine if electrocortical activity mirrored changes in cognitive performance across speeds. The researchers say the memory task (the Brooks spatial working memory task) did cause subjects to step more widely compared with walking without the task. However, their performance on the task remained steady whether they were walking or standing still.

Daniel Ferris, professor of kinesiology and biomedical engineering at U-M and senior author of the paper, says, "Given the health benefits of walking, we should not discourage people from walking and thinking when they want."

The research was published here in the journal, Frontiers in Human Neuroscience."

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