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One of the joys of working in a large rehab center with many colleagues is the ability to see different approaches to problems and different, creative interventions that individual therapists use to address patient deficits. I get to observe new exercises or functional tasks, talk about them, and apply them to my own patients. I also get the fun of providing that same sharing mentality to my colleagues when I experiment with different, unique interventions.
An added bonus for me is that we also have a neurological specialty rehab gym adjoining my orthopedic/sports medicine space. That means that I get to see unique, evidence based interventions applied to a different patient population altogether. That was never more evident when I happened to walk by the neuro gym one day to observe one of my colleagues working with a patient on the treadmill to help the patient’s walking pattern while simultaneously dropping playing cards on the tread and asking the patient to tell her the number and suite of the card before it was carried off the back end.
I found out later that my colleague was using this set up was due to a recent article she read in a journal. The article, linked below, was looking to answer the question if there was better outcomes on several functional outcome measures by combining physical and cognitive exercises in patients with mild cognitive impairment verses just physical exercise.
Combing Physical and Cognitive Exercises
You can probably guess the results of the study based on my colleagues' treatment. But yes, turns out that combining mental tasks while performing physical exercises boosted outcomes on the Mini-Mental State Exam and also improved overall function. This is valuable information for those of you who work with a neuro population with patients who may have mild cognitive impairment. But I think this article also provides great benefit to those of you who work with the geriatric population in which you would also likely see mild cognitive impairment.
So, begin to think about adding mental tasks while doing exercises. This study suggests playing word games while performing step ups, etc. If you work with neuro patients or geriatric patients use this information to help your patients achieve higher outcomes by incorporating what the article terms as “cognicizing.”