Executive functions of sedentary elderly may benefit from walking: A systematic review and meta-analysis

Erik Scherder, Rogier Scherder, Lot Verburgh, Marsh Königs, Marco Blom, Arthur F. Kramer, Laura Eggermont

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Objective: The goal of the present meta-analysis was to address studies that examined the relationship between walking as one of the most prevalent types of leisure-time activity and executive function being a higher-order cognitive function essential for independent functioning. Methods: The following data sources were used: English-language publications in PubMed, EMBASE, PsycINFO, Cinahl, and Cochrane; the last search took place in January 2012. From these data sources, only randomized controlled trials including older people with (N = 3) and without (N = 5) cognitive impairment were selected. Results: Walking has been shown to improve set-shifting and inhibition in sedentary older persons without cognitive impairment (d = 0.36; 95% confidence interval: 0.16-0.55; z = 3.56; p <0.0001). In older persons with cognitive impairment, walking did not show improvements in executive functioning (d = 0.14; 95% confidence interval:-0.36-0.64; z = 0.35; p = 0.56). Conclusion: This finding is clinically relevant because participation in a walking program may prevent or postpone a (further) decline in executive function in those who are sedentary.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)782-791
Number of pages10
JournalAmerican Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry
Issue number8
StatePublished - Aug 2014


  • Executive functions
  • Inhibition
  • Meta-analysis
  • Sedentary elderly
  • Set-shifting
  • Walking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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