The effect of rhythmic musical training on healthy older adults' gait and cognitive function

Linda M. Maclean*, Laura J.E. Brown, Arlene J. Astell

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

24 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose of the Study: Older adults' gait is disturbed when a demanding secondary cognitive task is added. Gait training has been shown to improve older adults' walking performance, but it is not clear how training affects their cognitive performance. This study examined the impact on gait, in terms of cost or benefit to cognitive performance, of training healthy older adults to walk to a rhythmic musical beat. Design and Methods: In a mixed model design, 45 healthy older adults aged more than 65 years (M = 71.7 years) were randomly assigned to 3 groups. One group received a rhythmic musical training and their dual-task (DT) walking and cognitive performances were compared with a group who had music playing in the background but no training, and a third group who heard no music and received no training. Outcomes in single-task (ST) and DT conditions were step-time variability and velocity for gait and correct cognitive responses for the cognitive task. Results: The Musical Training group's step-time variability improved in both the ST (p <. 05) and the DT (p <. 05) after training, without adversely affecting their cognitive performance. No change was seen in the control groups. Implications: Rhythmic musical training can improve gait steadiness in healthy older adults with no negative impact on concurrent cognitive functioning. This could potentially enhance postural reserve and reduce fall risk.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)624-633
Number of pages10
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2014
Externally publishedYes

Cite this