Dual Tasking Can Maximize Cognition, Mobility and Independence

We want to provide opportunities for our patients, residents and clients to maximize their quality of life and wellness. A key part of that effort should focus on maximizing cognitive abilities in general and, more specifically, maximizing executive functioning. What is executive functioning? Well, executive functioning includes attention, planning, controlling one’s distractibility and behavior. It also includes problem solving, reasoning and maintaining things in one’s mind for a short period of time.

In general, executive functioning largely determines how independent someone can be as well as many aspects of their quality of life. Studies have shown that executive functioning predicts one’s chance of falling and other aspects of mobility. Executive functioning also predicts one’s ability to engage in both Activities of Daily Living (ADLs) and Instrumental Activities of Daily Living (IADLs).

Ability to do activities of daily living (ADLs)

  1. • Bathing
  2. • Dressing
  3. • Grooming
  4. • Toileting
  5. • Eating

 

Ability to do instrumental activities of daily living (IADLs)

  1. • Cooking
  2. • Managing Medications
  3. • Managing finances
  4. • Housework
  5. • Using the phone
  6. • Shopping

Recent studies have found a number of ways older adults can improve executive functioning, such as cognitive stimulation and physical exercise. Many of you might have heard or read about the plethora of research showing that aerobic training, strength training, yoga, and Tai Chi can improve executive functioning. But a growing body of scientific literature is finding that dual tasking, that is combining a mental activity with a physical activity, can lead to equal or possibly superior benefits than physical exercise by itself.

Some examples of dual tasking are:

  1. • Pouring a cup of coffee while continuing to have a conversation with someone
  2. • Cleaning your glasses while adding numbers in your head
  3. • Looking into your purse for a pen while walking
  4. • Driving a car while listening to a radio interview or podcast

As we age, our ability to dual task can diminish, sometimes putting people at increased safety risk, for example falling or getting into a car accident. But the good news is that dual tasking, just like strength or endurance, can be improved with targeted exercise and practice.

BWell & Thrive is an innovated tool that allows practitioners to measure people’s dual tasking capabilities. First, we measure people’s ability to do a physical exercise for 2 minutes, then their ability to do a cognitive task for 2 minutes, and then their ability to do both. How much the performance is reduced when doing dual tasking relative to doing one task by itself is called the dual task cost. BWell & Thrive can measure dual task cost, over time, and provide an opportunity to improve this capability. BWell & Thrive is customizable based on one’s abilities and has the potential to change lives. To learn more visit us on the web at BWell Solutions.