Posts tagged research

A short 10-minute walk can benefit the brain

A recent study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences determined that even ten minutes of mild exercise can benefit the brain. In the study, scientists from the University of California, Irvine, and the University of Tsukuba in Japan looked at a group of healthy young college students.

The study had 36 participants. They visited the research lab two separate times. On the first visit, each participant sat on a stationary bicycle for 10 minutes. On the second visit, they pedalled the bicycle at a gentle pace that barely increased their heart rates.

New York Times summarized: “In technical terms, the exercise was performed at about 30 percent of each volunteer’s heart rate reserve, or the difference between a person’s maximum heart rate and their resting heart rate. By comparison, brisk walking should raise someone’s heart rate reserve to about 50 percent.”

Participants completed a computerized memory test immediately after each session of sitting or slow pedalling. In the test, the participants would see a brief picture of an object (such as a tree), followed by a variety of other images and then a new image of either the same object or a similar object. Participants had to press buttons to indicate whether they thought each image was new or the same as an earlier image. Images closely resembled one another. The same process was repeated, with testing being completed inside an M.R.I machine that scanned the participant’s brains while they responded to the images.

Results showed that even though the exercise was undemanding, it had an effect on brain function. Participants were better at remembering images after they had ridden the bicycle, especially when the images closely resembled one another. Researchers also found that exercise altered how certain parts of the brain communicate and coordinate with one another. Exercise also improved memory function. The findings suggest that exercise does not need to be long and rigorous to benefit the brain. The effects can take place far more quickly than many of us might expect.

In an interview with New York Times, Michael Yassa, the director of the U.C. Irvine Center for the Neurobiology of Learning and Memory and senior co-author of the new study with Hideaki Soya of the University of Tsukuba, concluded: “It was exciting to see those effects occurring so quickly and after such light exercise. The findings show that exercise can change people’s brains and minds right away without requiring weeks of working out. Even better, the exertion required can be so slight as to allow almost anyone, even those who are out of shape or possibly disabled, to complete the exercise.”

More research needs to be completed to determine how, at a molecular level, gentle exercise affects brain function. Click here to learn more about the study.

Walk10Blocks App Study – Participant Survey

We are inviting you to complete a short survey on your experiences with the Walk10Blocks app study.

Walk10Blocks Research Participant Survey Banner

Dear Walk10Blocks app study participant,

We are contacting you because you consented to participate in our walking app feasibility study. We are inviting you to complete a short survey on your experiences with the Walk10Blocks app study. The survey will take less than five minutes to complete.

All information collected during this survey will only be accessed by the Walk10Blocks research team based on the university of British Columbia. The data will be used for improving the Walk10Blocks app. If you have any questions or need additional information about the study, our North American contact is walk10blocks@arthritisresearch.ca.

Thank you!

The Walk10Blocks Research Team

Researcher-consumer-patient group collaboration facilitates knowledge translation

The Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute published a news article about the Walk10Blocks app, commenting how researcher-consumer-patient group collaboration can facilitate knowledge translation. The Walk10Blocks team thanks the Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute and other groups for sharing the Walk10Blocks app with their network.

Below is an excerpt of the article:

Researcher-consumer-patient Group Collaboration Facilitates Knowledge Translation

A man and a woman on their phone for Walk10Blocks app

Walk10Blocks helps get sedentary people moving.

The development process behind a new app to help sedentary people get moving shows how unique partnerships between researchers, consumers, and patient groups can lead to innovative health research. Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute (VCHRI) scientists Dr. Linda Li and Dr. Teresa Liu-Ambrose credit the collaboration between themselves and consumer and patient groups, including Arthritis Consumer Experts, the Alzheimer Society of B.C., and CARP (the Canadian Association of Retired Persons), for the development of the Walk10Blocks app.

Dr. Linda Li, professor in the Department of Physical Therapy at the University of British Columbia and Canada Research Chair in Patient-Oriented Knowledge Translation at UBC and Arthritis Research Canada. 

“We’re very proud of this collaboration. It’s a perfect example of how researchers getting together with patient and public groups can come up with innovative ideas and actually make things happen,” says Dr. Li.

“I’ve built apps before for other research projects and it usually takes a very long time. Walk10Blocks only took one year from conception to testing launch in the community. When consumer and patient groups are involved–they know what works and they’re really driven to get things done fast and done right.”

Walk10Blocks is the first app designed specifically to help adults get over the hurdle of starting regular physical activity by encouraging them to walk 10 blocks a day (or about one kilometre per day), which according to research may help delay or minimize risk of dementia and improve cardiovascular and joint health over time. 

Walk10Blocks, which is currently available for free on iTunes, can be installed on an iPhone 5S or above. The app uses the phone’s core motion sensor to collect data about a person’s movement activity. The app converts this activity into a walking log, which tracks the distance travelled throughout the day and how many theoretical city blocks have been covered. The goal is to encourage sedentary people to walk at least 10 blocks per day. The app offers motivating, friendly alerts, has easy-to-read measurements, helps set reasonable walking goals, and awards badges for meeting goals.

By downloading the app, Walk10Blocks participants have also agreed to take part in an innovative research study that uses the app to collect data through surveys. Information gathered for the study includes patients’ fatigue, pain, mood, stress, and walk ratings to give researchers a better understanding of what individuals’ walking opportunities look like. The study also aims to help users recognize and understand their own physical activity levels and sedentary behaviour, create awareness about neighbourhood resources, and determine the overall feasibility of the app.

Development of the app started with one of Drs. Li and Liu-Ambrose’s research groups consulting with patient groups and receiving a grant from the Improving Cognitive and Joint Health Network (ICON), a Canadian Institutes of Health Research knowledge translation catalyst network.

“What we heard loud and clear through our consultations was a desire for more efficient, effective use of what we know about physical activity and its health benefits in terms of managing diseases, especially for people whose health may worsen without it.”

Early on, the groups met with Dr. Liu-Ambrose, researcher at the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health and the Centre for Hip Health and Mobility, who shared with them current evidence with relation to exercise and cognitive function. According to Dr. Li, the group was most interested in findings from a nine-year observational study in the U.S. that showed that walking approximately 10 city-sized blocks results in better cognition and better brains.

“That specific information had our consumer groups almost jumping for joy because to them it was finally something concrete that could be used and brought back to stakeholder groups as the minimum amount of physical activity you needed to do for positive effect,” according to Dr. Li.

Dr. Liu-Ambrose, who is also Canada Research Chair in Physical Activity, Mobility, and Cognitive Neuroscience, says the group got quite motivated by the idea that you don’t necessarily need to run a marathon to have a positive impact on brain health. “This led to the concept of the app and Cheryl Koehn, president of Arthritis Consumer Experts and head of our arthritis patient group, really has been the driving force behind it.”

“The evidence is accumulating to suggest that exercise is beneficial–but where there is a void is how to put it into action. The app is a bit of that component,” she adds. “When everyone has a common goal and shared interests, I think that’s when we make good progress.”

“And so in many ways, recommending regular activities, such as moderately paced walking, seems to be a pretty reasonable approach for promoting physical and cognitive health over the lifespan.”