About this study
While memory and other brain functions have been shown to normally decline over the lifespan, poorer diet and lack of exercise have been linked with a faster deterioration in these functions and a higher chance of dementia. The MedWalk trial is an Australian Government-funded study that aims to determine if a combination of lifestyle changes in keeping with a Mediterranean style of diet and walking-based exercise can slow the decline in brain function (cognition) that is commonly associated with older age.
This clinical trial will be conducted across 28 independent living retirement community sites in Victoria and South Australia. It will investigate the effects of diet and exercise on memory, attention and other mental functions over a 2-year period.
Translating this knowledge into a lifestyle program for behaviour change for the prevention of dementia could be physically, socially and economically significant.
Participation in the study will involve attending assessment sessions at (or near) your facility of residence on 6 separate occasions over a 2-year period. You will need to be available at your place of residence for assessment 2 times at the beginning of the study, as well as every 6 months across the 2-year duration of the study (total of 6 visits). Each assessment session will take approximately 2–3 hours.
You may be eligible to participate if:
- you are a resident of one of the selected independent living retirement communities
- you are between 60 and 90 years
- you are fluent in written and spoken English
- you are able to walk independently and are free from major physical conditions that would prevent regular walking
- you are willing to provide blood and stool samples throughout the testing phases
- you are willing to participate in all scheduled assessments
- you are willing to participate in regular engagement sessions
- you have not been diagnosed with dementia or cognitive impairment
- you do not have a history of stroke or any other conditions that affect your brain function
- you do not already participate (on average) in more than 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous leisure time physical activity per week and already eat a mostly Mediterranean-style diet
- you do not have a diagnosed allergy or intolerance of food groups (e.g. olive oil/nuts/seafood) that would prevent you from eating a Mediterranean-style diet.
Participation in the study may also involve making changes to your diet and the inclusion of regular walking exercise (intervention); this will depend on the study group your residential community is randomly allocated to. You may also be selected into a group where there is no requirement to make these lifestyle changes (control).
Those in the intervention group will be asked to make adjustments to their diet and level of exercise over the 2-year assessment period. Dietary changes will involve eating a more Mediterranean-style of diet, which is high in fruit, vegetables, legumes and fish, while being low in saturated fats, red meat and alcohol. Exercise change will involve a gradual increase in regular walking. Changes to diet and walking will be explained and supported through organised regular sessions at (or near to) your living facility over the first year.
These sessions will be both individual and group support provided by dietary and exercise experts — every 2 weeks for the first 8 weeks, then monthly for the next 4 months, then every 3 months for the rest of the first year. There will also be regular group walking sessions conducted by a fitness/exercise professional on a weekly basis for the first 6 months, then monthly sessions for the following 6 months. Motivational support will also be provided throughout the study to help overcome any barriers you might have in adapting to these lifestyle changes.
The MedWalk study is due to begin in early 2021. Find more details about this study via this website.
For further enquiries
The MedWalk team
+61 3 9214 8168