Mental fatigue can wear out older adults, much more than their physical ability to walk, revealed a new research on the association between walking ability and low mental energy which was presented at the American Physiological Society (APS) annual meeting at Experimental Biology 2018 in San Diego.
Researchers from Clarkson University in New York observed a group of older adults (average age 75) while they performed physically and mentally tiring tasks. The volunteers performed the physical task--a timed walking test at normal speed for six minutes--before and after the cognitive components. LED sensors embedded in the five-meter walking track captured gait speed and stride length.
The cognitive portion of the test consisted of several math subtraction activities and visually identifying specific numbers and sequences on a computer screen. The volunteers reported their mood, motivation and energy levels after both the physical and cognitive tests. Vocabulary used to capture the participants' mood included "a list of mood components such as tense, worn out, energetic, confused [and] lively," explained Abigail Avolio, first author of the study.
More study is needed "to further evaluate why feelings of physical energy and fatigue are not related to gait," the researchers wrote.