#PTonICE Daily Show – Wednesday, July 5th, 2023 – Exercise that improves cognition

In today’s episode of the PT on ICE Daily Show, Modern Management of the Older Adult lead faculty Jeff Musgrave discussed several strategies that can be employed to achieve intensity, which is crucial for cognitive changes. These strategies, including increasing load, decreasing rest, and increasing work time or volume, are part of physical training and can drive metabolic adaptation and enhance cognitive benefits. By challenging the muscles and cardiovascular system through increased load, individuals can experience improved cognitive function. Similarly, reducing rest periods allows for a more continuous and demanding workout, while increasing work time or volume extends the overall duration or amount of exercise performed. All of these strategies contribute to increasing the intensity of the workout, which is essential for promoting cognitive changes.

Incorporating a dual motor task and cognitive layer during exercise can further enhance cognition. This can be achieved by integrating activities that require both physical movement and cognitive engagement. For instance, one way to introduce a dual motor task is by having individuals hold two cups and transfer water from one cup to the other while walking. This adds complexity to the exercise and challenges both the motor and cognitive systems. Additionally, engaging in mental tasks like answering questions or performing mental math while exercising can also enhance cognition. Starting with simple preference questions and gradually progressing to more challenging cognitive tasks can create a cognitive load while individuals focus on the physical activity, leading to cognitive changes. It is crucial to control the intensity of physical training by adjusting factors such as load, rest, work time, or volume to ensure the desired cognitive benefits are achieved.

Shifting exercise sessions to a busy environment can introduce cognitive load and improve cognition. Instead of conducting sessions in a quiet one-on-one room, it can be beneficial to move to a busy clinic space, a bustling hospital hallway, or even an outdoor setting with unpredictable elements. Exposing individuals to a busier environment adds a cognitive challenge to their physical activities, such as skating or walking. This cognitive load stimulates cognitive changes and enhances the cognitive benefits of training. It effectively adds a cognitive layer to the exercise session and promotes neuroplasticity. Furthermore, incorporating a dual motor task, such as moving water back and forth, and asking cognitive questions like preference inquiries or mental math can further amplify the cognitive benefits of the exercise session. Overall, integrating a busy environment and cognitive tasks into exercise sessions can be a valuable strategy for improving cognition.

Take a listen to learn how to better serve this population of patients & athletes.

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00:00 INTRO
What’s up everybody, welcome back to the PT on ICE Daily Show. Before we jump into today’s episode, let’s chat about Jane, our show sponsor. Jane makes the Daily Show possible and is the practice management software that so many folks here at ICE utilize. The team at Jane knows how important it is for your patients to get the care they need and with this in mind, they’ve made it really easy and convenient for patients to book online. One tip that has worked well for a lot of practices is to make the booking button on your website prominent so patients can’t miss it. Once clicked, they get redirected to a beautifully branded online booking site and from there, the entire booking process only takes around two minutes. After booking an appointment, patients get access to a secure portal where they can conveniently manage their appointments and payment details, add themselves to a waitlist, opt in to text and email reminders and fill out their intake form. If you all are curious to learn more about online booking with Jane, head over to jane.app slash physical therapy, book their one-on-one demo with a member of their team and if you’re sure to use the code ICEPT1MO when you sign up, that gives you a one month grace period that gets applied to your new account. Thanks everybody. Enjoy today’s show. 

All right. PT on the ICE Daily Show. Welcome. This is Wednesday. This means it is Geri on ICE talking about all things, topics to help make your care for your older adults as good as possible to really set yourself apart as an expert with older adults. What we’re going to be talking about today is exercise that improves cognition. There are a couple different types of exercise training that is really superior for improving cognition for older adults and we’re going to talk about what those are and then how to incorporate them into your care. Before we get to that, just a quick rundown of what we’ve got going on in the older adult division. If you were hoping to catch the next cohort of Essential Foundations, that’ll be starting in August, August 9th. If you’re looking to get your advanced concepts, if you’ve already taken Essential Foundations looking for that next step, that’ll be October 12th. Next opportunity to see us live, you’ve got three opportunities in July. We’re going to be in Connecticut, Georgia, and Idaho this month. If you have been itching to see us on the road, get to do some of these fun labs and things that you’ve probably seen on social media, book your seat, come see us. We’re going to be all over the place as we do 2023. Many of our older adults are worried about their cognition. They may already be experiencing cognitive changes. Maybe they’ve got just mild cognitive impairment. They don’t have an official diagnosis. Maybe they’ve got early stages of cognitive change all the way to advanced dementia. It’s not uncommon for us to be treating community dwelling older adults or older adults in an institutional setting that have experienced some cognitive changes. When we’re thinking about our exercise interventions and how to prioritize, making physical change while keeping in mind we know there’s a cognitive component. Sometimes a cognitive component ends up being more critical than the physical component for some of our older adults. We’re talking about safety. We’re talking about independence and their ability to manage their home environment, for example. This can be huge. The reality is a lot of us don’t know where to start when we’re thinking about how do I do both get the physical training piece and keep in mind they’ve got some big cognitive impairments on board that I’m concerned about. There was a 2019 article titled, Preferred Type of Exercise for Cognition Enhancement in Older Adults. It did just this. It broke down what types of exercise we should be focused on. Once you get through this article, and I’ll share it in the caption as well if you want to look it up yourself, but there were two types of exercise that we’re going to cover. The third thing we’re going to do is just talk about the practicality of how to get those cognitive changes for our older adults in our sessions. The first type of training that was most beneficial for driving cognitive enhancement was a category called physical training. If you’re familiar with CrossFit or not, I’m going to describe a workout to you that would be very squarely in this component of physical training. So MERF, very common Memorial Day workout done to honor a fallen soldier. The workout is one mile run. We’ve got 100 pushups. I’m sorry, 100 pullups, 200 pushups, 300 air squats. So that would very much squarely fit into the grunt workout. You’re grinding. It’s a long workout with high metabolic demand. So the first category was physical training that was intense. High intensity physical training was the number one thing that they found was beneficial for enhancing cognition for older adults. So many of our patients are not going to be doing MERF. So the question is, what’s this look like clinically? So any workout that’s using compound functional movements and you’re moving at high intensity where you’ve controlled the work rest ratio, you’ve controlled the number of repetitions or the volume, and you’ve controlled the pace, you can modulate to get up to high intensity. But high intensity training is superior for cognitive enhancement. So for a patient that may be doing a remom, every minute we’re doing different activities. We’ve controlled the amount of work and rest time. The patient is going to pace that themselves. So say minute one, we’re doing 10 sit to stands. Then the next minute we’re going to do carries over and back across the room with the weight that’s challenging. So there’s maybe 10, 15 seconds of rest. And on the third minute, maybe we’re going to be doing some supported jumping. So grunt work type movements. There’s not a whole lot of thought involved. Hold this walk, stand up, sit down, put your hands here, jump. Very simple, basic activities, but their nature of them being compound functional movements where we’ve controlled rest, we’re going to drive intensity and we’re going to drive metabolic adaptation, which was key for enhancing cognitive benefits in training. So that’s what we want to be thinking about. Category one, physical training. They found that the change happened because of changes in the metabolic system and hitting intensity was key. So high intensity grunt work style training improves cognition. That’s good news. That follows right in line often with what we’re trying to do with our older adults because we know most of them are sedentary and need physical training. They need to be stronger. They need higher cardiovascular capacities to really keep themselves on a healthy trajectory as they age. So the second type of training that was beneficial for enhancing cognition was a category they just called motor training. So a good example of this would be a Turkish getup. So maybe you’ve never done a Turkish getup, but if you can imagine yourself laying on your back, you’ve got one arm pointed at the sky with the weight in your hand. You’re going to move from lying on your back all the way up to standing with the weight overhead. You’re going to be balancing the weight the entire time and then going all the way back down to lying on your back. That would be an example of motor training. It’s a complex task. There’s actually 14 steps in a Turkish getup for just one side. A lot to think about, lots of positions to hit, complex movement, a novel task for a lot of people in general, but especially older adults getting up and down off the floor without using an arm, but also adding load and having to balance that weight makes it complex from a motor training standpoint. So maybe our older adults are not doing Turkish getups. Some definitely can. There are research articles that have shown that older adults can do Turkish getups and it’s beneficial for them, but maybe a more practical example for a lot of us would be working on floor transfers. Many of our patients need to work on getting up and down off the floor, doing that where we’re working around a cranky joint, a knee, a shoulder, maybe a hip that is super stiff or doing this at a novel environment. Maybe we take them outside on the grass where maybe they don’t have furniture or they’ve got limited furniture where we’ve just created a complex, novel task. It’s motor training that’s complex and that’s what’s going to drive cognitive adaptation. This motor control category, the driving factor was complexity and it was direct neuroplasticity. So directly impacting neuroplasticity when we do complex motor tasks. So getting up and down from the ground in a different environment would be a great way to drive neuroplasticity directly. So we’ve got these two categories. We’ve got high intensity physical training and then we’ve got high complexity motor training. Those are the two different avenues we can use with exercise to improve cognition for older adults. So the question is, well, what do we do? Which one is most important? And if you’ve been around the ICE community very long, you’ve probably heard this before. Or if you’re new to following along with the journey here on what we’re doing with our clinical approach, you’re going to know the answer to this. And that is and not or. We want to do both. So we want to be greedy when it comes to our patients. We want to give them the maximal benefit, the maximal value out of every single session. And we can do that by driving intensity while driving complexity of task. And the easiest way to do that is a strategy we call layering. So a good example of this would be, say we want to drive intensity with gait training. Lots of great ways to do this. We can put a gait belt on our patient and hang on to it and add some resistance that way. We can do the same thing with a resistance band. We can throw a weighted vest. We can have them hold weights. Gait training just got much more intense at whatever resistance is appropriate to challenge our patient by just adding resistance to that walking. So we’ve already achieved intensity there. So how do we add this motor training piece? How do we add complexity to also enhance cognition at the same time? Lots of different ways to do this. You could do a weighted vest and maybe we’ve got someone with two cups in their hand and they’re transitioning water from one to the other while they’re walking. Man, we’ve just layered on a dual motor task while we’re hitting intensity with a vest. Another great example, we can ask simple preference questions. That’s usually an easy way to ease in on the cognitive load. Just ask them some random questions that sound like conversation. You may already be doing this, adding a cognitive layer and not realize it, but asking them questions while they’re concentrating adds a cognitive component. We can scale that up. We can ask for mental math while someone is doing intense gait training. That can be super beneficial. We can ask, what’s your favorite color? We can ask them to subtract three from 74 out loud while they’re walking under intensity. We can move them to novel environment. There are lots of different ways we can add that in. You want to control the two things you’ve got to do to put these things together. For physical training, you’ve got to control intensity. You can increase load, you can decrease rest, you can increase work time or volume. All those things will help you reach intensity, which is crucial for cognitive changes. The second piece is adding a dual motor task like we talked about the water back and forth. You can add the cognitive layer by asking questions, preference questions, mental math, those type of things. Moving them into a busy environment. Maybe you have your sessions in a quiet one-on-one room. Maybe you move out into busy clinic space or into busy hospital hallway, or maybe you’re in home health and you can take someone outside or into busier environment where there’s unpredictable things and there’s some cognitive load on just skating and keeping yourself safe. That’s another great way to add cognition. That’s what I’ve got for you, team. You want to hit intensity through physical training. You want to add complexity with motor training. The third thing is you want to add layers. You want to layer up your intensity and cognitive difficulty as much as possible to get the most bang for your buck, especially when there are cognitive deficits on board. If anyone’s got any cool strategies, layering tips, tricks, things they’ve done that they found fun and beneficial, or you’ve just got questions or comments, drop them. I’d love to see those and interact with you. I hope that was helpful for someone out there. Have a great rest of your Wednesday, team. See you later. 

14:52 OUTRO
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