Walking Reduces Dementia Risk in Older Adults, Study Finds

Walk to the Moon

New research suggests that just under 10,000 steps a day may significantly decrease the likelihood of developing dementia in seniors.

  • Older adults who took 9,800 steps daily were 50% less likely to develop dementia.
  • Even 3,800 daily steps resulted in a 25% reduction in dementia risk.
  • Walking at a faster pace provides additional benefits.

The Importance of Physical Activity for Brain Health

A recent study published in JAMA Neurology highlights the significance of physical activity for brain health, adding to the growing body of evidence supporting the positive impact of exercises like walking on cognitive function. The study evaluated 78,430 adults aged 40 to 79, finding that those who took just under 10,000 steps a day (9,800 steps) had a 50% lower risk of developing dementia. Participants who managed 3,800 daily steps still saw a 25% reduction in dementia risk.

Public Health Guidelines and Recommendations

Current guidelines from AARP’s Global Council on Brain Health (GCBH) suggest that older adults engage in 150 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each week, such as brisk walking, and strength training for a few days. Despite these recommendations, nearly half of adults aged 45 and older are not meeting these standards, according to a 2019 report from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The Exercise-Brain Connection

Physical activity influences brain health through various mechanisms, including improving sleep, reducing anxiety, lowering inflammation, and increasing blood flow to the brain. Moreover, exercise has been linked to the improved brain structure, such as increased cerebral cortex thickness, which is responsible for thinking, language, and memory.

This study emphasizes the importance of physical activity, particularly walking, in reducing the risk of dementia among older adults. Although the study has its limitations, it provides valuable insights that could potentially inform public health guidelines and encourage the use of fitness trackers to help people stay active and monitor their progress.

As the number of individuals living with Alzheimer’s and related dementias continues to rise, understanding the connection between exercise and brain health becomes increasingly critical. Incorporating regular walking routines, even in smaller increments, can provide significant benefits for cognitive health, offering a simple and accessible way for individuals to maintain their well-being as they age.