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Does walking improve diagnosis of skin conditions at varying levels of medical expertise?

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The use of walking workstations in educational and work settings has been shown to improve cognitive abilities. At the same time, it has been repeatedly shown that medical residents around the world do not meet exercise guidelines, mainly due to a scarcity of available free time. Our study investigates the boundaries of the previously observed phenomenon of improved cognitive performance with physical activity using materials that represent real life tasks. Participants had different level of expertise and involved second year psychology students, medical students, and family medicine residents. We examined the effect of being physically inactive (i.e., sitting) or active (i.e., walking) while diagnosing multiple complex presentations of four skin conditions. We assumed that being physically active, irrespective of the level of expertise, will bolster diagnostic performance. Our findings show, however, that being physically active does not change the performance level of participants with different levels of medical expertise. Implications for medical education and suggestions for further research will be discussed.

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The authors would like to thank Dr. Mark MacKenzie, University of British Columbia’s Family Practice Residency Program Director, Dr. Benjamin Y. Cheung, University of British Columbia’s Department of Psychology Lecturer, and the many students from the University of British Columbia’s Northern Medical Program Class of 2020 for their creative help with recruitment of participants for this study. Thank you also to Mr. Richard Franke, research assistant, for his help with data collection, often at distant sites.


Funding for this study was provided through the University of Northern British Columbia’s Research Start-Up Fund.

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All authors contributed to the study conception and design. Material preparation, data collection and analysis were performed by Malgorzata E. Kaminska. The first draft of the manuscript was written by Malgorzata E. Kaminska and both authors commented on previous versions of the manuscript. Both authors read and approved the final manuscript.

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Correspondence to Malgorzata E. Kaminska.

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The authors report no declaration of interest. The authors alone are responsible for the content and writing this article.

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All procedures in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Kaminska, M.E., Rikers, R.M.J.P. Does walking improve diagnosis of skin conditions at varying levels of medical expertise?. Adv in Health Sci Educ 26, 405–416 (2021).

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