Conceptualization of a cognitively enriched walking program for older adults: a co-design study with experts and end users

Pieter-Jan Marent, Arwen Vangilbergen, Sebastien Chastin, Greet Cardon, Jannique G Z van Uffelen, Melanie Beeckman*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)
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BACKGROUND: Research in controlled laboratory settings shows that physical activity programs enriched with cognitive challenges enhance the benefits of physical activity on cognition in older adults. This translational study aimed to conceptualise a real-life, cognitively enriched walking program for older adults (65+) by investigating (a) which cognitive tasks are most suited for cognitive enrichment of a walking program, and (b) how to embed these tasks in a walking program to become feasible, enjoyable and effective.

METHODS: A co-design process was followed with input of 34 academic experts and 535 end users. First, an online, three-rounds Delphi process was used to obtain consensus amongst academic experts on the key characteristics that a real-life cognitively enriched walking program should have. Next, end users provided feedback and suggestions on what the experts concluded, and gave more insight into their preferences and concerns by means of an online/telephone survey.

RESULTS: Combined input from experts and end users resulted in a list of recommendations to guide the further development of the cognitively enriched walking program. First, it is important to provide a range of cognitive tasks to choose from. Each of these tasks should (a) provide variation and differentiation, (b) be implemented with increasing levels of difficulty, and (c) be integrated in the walk. Second, divide the walk into three parts: 5-10 min brisk walking, cognitive tasks for most of the walk, and 5-10 min free walking. Finally, the program should strive for a minimal session frequency of twice a week, include competition occasionally and carefully, ensure safety and keep the walks fun.

CONCLUSIONS: The co-design process resulted in recommendations to guide the next steps in the program development process. Additional studies will be performed to improve the enjoyability and feasibility, and to assess the effectiveness of the cognitively enriched walking program to improve cognitive functioning and physical activity in older adults (65+).

Original languageEnglish
Article number167
Number of pages12
JournalBMC Geriatrics
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2022


  • intervention
  • prevention
  • physical activity
  • cognition

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology


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