People aged 40 to 79 who took 9,826 steps a day were 50% less likely to develop dementia within seven years, the study found. What’s more, people who walked with a “goal” – at a rate greater than 40 steps per minute – were able to reduce their risk of dementia by 57% with just 6,315 steps per day.
“It’s a brisk walking activity, like brisk walking,” said study co-author Borja del Pozo Cruz, adjunct associate professor at the University of Southern Denmark in Odense, Denmark, and researcher major in health sciences at the University of Cadiz in Spain. .
Even people who walked about 3,800 steps a day at any speed reduced their risk of dementia by 25%, the study found.
“That would be enough, initially, for sedentary people,” del Pozo Cruz said in an email.
“In fact, it’s a message doctors could use to motivate very sedentary older people – 4k steps is very doable by many, even those who are less fit or don’t feel very motivated,” he said. he adds. “Perhaps people who are more active and in better shape should aim for 10,000k, where we see maximum effects.”
But there was an even more interesting finding buried in the study, according to an editorial titled “Is 112 the New 10,000?” published Tuesday in JAMA Neurology.
The editorial argued that people looking to reduce their risk of dementia focus on their walking pace over the distance they walk.
“While 112 steps/min is a fairly fast pace, ‘112’ is theoretically a much more manageable and less intimidating number for most individuals than ‘10,000’, especially if they have been physically inactive or under-active. “wrote Alzheimer’s researchers Ozioma Okonkwo and Elizabeth Planalp in the editorial. Okonkwo is an Associate Professor in the Department of Medicine at Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at the University of Wisconsin–Madison; Planalp is a research scientist in the Okonkwo laboratory.
“We agree that this is a very interesting finding,” del Pozo Cruz said via email. “Our view is that step intensity matters! Beyond volume. Technology could be used to track not only step count, but also pace, and so these types of metrics can also be incorporated into commercial watches. Further research is needed on this.”
Don’t have a step counter? You can count the number of steps you take in 10 seconds and then multiply by six – or the number of steps you take in six seconds and multiply by 10. Either way, it works. But remember that not everyone’s steps are the same length, nor their level of fitness. What might be a steady pace for a 40 year old may not be sustainable for a 70 year old.
Editor’s Note: Before beginning any new exercise program, consult your physician. Stop immediately if you feel pain.
Inside the study
The study, also published Tuesday in JAMA Neurology, analyzed data from more than 78,000 people between the ages of 40 and 79 who wore wrist accelerometers. The researchers counted each person’s total steps per day and then classified them into two categories: less than 40 steps per minute, which is more of a stroll, like when you walk from room to room, and more than 40 steps per minute. steps per minute, or so-called “intentional” walking. The researchers also analyzed top performers – those who took the most steps in 30 minutes over the course of a day (although those 30 minutes did not have to occur during the same walk).
The researchers then compared that person’s milestones to their diagnosis of dementia of any type seven years later. After controlling for age, ethnicity, education, gender, socio-emotional status, and number of days an accelerometer was worn, the researchers also took into account lifestyle variables such as such as poor diet, smoking, alcohol consumption, drug use, sleep problems and a history of cardiovascular disease. sickness.
The study had some limitations, its authors point out – it was observational only, so it cannot establish a direct causal link between walking and a lower risk of dementia. Additionally, “the age range of the participants may have resulted in a limited number of dementia cases, meaning that our findings may not be generalizable to older populations,” the study states.
“Because there are often considerable delays in the diagnosis of dementia and this study did not include formal clinical and cognitive assessments of dementia, it is possible that the prevalence of dementia in the community is much higher,” the authors added.
While agreeing that the results cannot be interpreted as direct cause and effect, “the growing evidence supporting the benefits of physical activity for maintaining optimal brain health can no longer be ignored,” Okonkwo and Planalp.
“It is time that the management of physical inactivity be considered an integral part of routine primary care visits for older adults,” they added.
Research Adds Up
Indeed, recent research published in July found that many leisure activities, such as household chores, exercise, adult education classes, and visiting family and friends, affect dementia risk. in middle-aged people.
Regularly doing household chores reduced the risk by 21% while daily visits with family and friends reduced the risk of dementia by 15%, compared to those less engaged.
All study participants benefited from the protective effect of physical and mental activities, whether or not they had a family history of dementia, the researchers found.
This study found that exercise increases levels of a protein known to enhance communication between brain cells via synapses, which may be a key factor in keeping dementia at bay.
“Dementia is preventable to a large extent,” del Pozo Cruz said. “Physical activity along with other lifestyle behaviors such as abstaining from alcohol and tobacco, maintaining a healthy diet and weight, and sleeping can put you on the right track. pathway to avoid dementia.”