Age-Defying Brain Boost: How These Activities Transform Cognition

October 30th, 2023

By Lily Anderson

Staff Writer for Wake Up World

In a world where cognitive health is becoming increasingly vital, a new study brings fantastic news for seniors. Researchers from the University of Eastern Finland, the University of Edinburgh, and ETH Zürich have uncovered the remarkable cognitive benefits of three seemingly simple yet powerful activities: golf, Nordic walking, and regular walking.

Cognitive health is an essential aspect of overall well-being, particularly as we age. Many are seeking ways to maintain and enhance cognitive function in their golden years, and this ground breaking research shines a light on activities that may hold the key. The study, recently published in BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine, reveals how these activities can significantly enhance immediate cognitive function in older adults.

The Cognitive Power Trio: Golf, Nordic Walking, and Regular Walking

According to a recent study published in BMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine, these activities can significantly enhance immediate cognitive function in older adults. The study featured 25 healthy older golfers aged 65 and above, embarking on three distinct aerobic exercises that offer more than just physical benefits.

The research involved:

  • An 18-hole golf round
  • A 6 km Nordic walking session
  • A 6 km regular walking session

A Walk in the Park: Immediate Cognitive Gains

Each of these exercises was conducted in real-life environments, mimicking everyday activities, such as brisk walking. To evaluate cognitive function, researchers used the Trail-Making Test (TMT) A and B, a well-established tool for assessing cognitive function in older adults.

The TMT-A test focuses on measuring lower cognitive functions, like attention and processing speed, while the TMT-B test delves into more demanding executive functions, such as task-switching ability. Blood samples were also collected to measure brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) and cathepsin B (CTSB) levels—two substances believed to reflect exercise-induced brain benefits. Participants wore fitness monitoring devices, tracking various exercise-specific data, including distance, duration, pace, energy expenditure, and steps. An ECG sensor with a chest strap was used to monitor heart rate.

The exciting findings indicate that just a single session of any of these three exercises—golf, Nordic walking, or regular walking—can lead to improved lower cognitive functions, as measured by the TMT-A test. While the levels of BDNF and CTSB remained unchanged, Nordic walking and regular walking demonstrated notable effects on enhanced executive functions, as measured by the TMT-B test.

Quotes from the Study:

“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. Previous research has shown that exercise also holds promise as a potential strategy for those experiencing cognitive decline,”says Julia Kettinen, the first author of the article and a Doctoral Researcher in Sports and Exercise Medicine at the Institute of Biomedicine, University of Eastern Finland.


Conclusion: A Cognitive Boost in Nature

In an era where staying mentally sharp is more important than ever, it’s heartening to know that activities like golf, Nordic walking, and regular walking can contribute to cognitive well-being in older adults. The benefits extend beyond the physical realm, opening up exciting possibilities for maintaining and enhancing cognitive function as we age. So, why not grab your golf clubs or lace up your walking shoes and embark on a journey to not only improve your physical health but also boost your brainpower? The path to cognitive vitality is right at your feet!


  1. Julia Kettinen, Heikki Tikkanen, Mikko Hiltunen, Andrew Murray, Nils Horn, William R Taylor, Mika Venojärvi. Cognitive and biomarker responses in healthy older adults to a 18-hole golf round and different walking types: a randomised cross-over studyBMJ Open Sport & Exercise Medicine, 2023; 9 (4): e001629 DOI: 10.1136/bmjsem-2023-001629

About the author:

Lily Anderson is a passionate wordsmith and dedicated explorer of cutting-edge scientific inquiries. Fuelled by a thirst for knowledge, she skilfully transforms intricate ideas into relatable tales, inviting readers to embark on a captivating expedition of revelation. Lily’s efforts play a crucial role in bridging the gap between experts and the wider public, evoking a sense of awe and encouraging insightful discussions about groundbreaking scientific advancements.

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