Want to radically lower your risk of dementia?
Consider this simple, at-home protocol to be just what the doctor ordered. Better yet, it’s free, and you can start today.
A newly published longitudinal study confirms that by simply walking every day you can dramatically lower your risk of dementia.
Researchers collected data from the UK Biobank and compared the number of steps people take daily with the health of their memories as they age.
Counting More Steps Reduces Dementia Risk
The study assessed the walking habits of 78,430 people 40 to 79 years of age between February 2013 and December 2015. The participants were 55 percent female and 97 percent white, with an average age of 61.
The researchers gave each one a wrist-worn accelerometer to ensure accuracy. Also, the team differentiated between incidental steps (under 40 steps per minute) and purposeful steps (more than 40 steps per minute). They also looked at the peak 30-minute cadence, which they defined as the average steps per minute for the most active 30 minutes of the day, whether consecutive or not.
During a mean follow-up period of 6.9 years, 866 of the participants developed dementia, which was determined by one of three traits:
- Primary care records
- Underlying or contributory cause of death in registry data
The researchers found that a daily step count total of 3800 to 9800 steps was linked to a lower risk of dementia. By the way, the optimal number of incidental steps was 3,677 steps, whereas for purposeful steps it was 6,315.
In fact, the optimal daily “dose” of steps offering the greatest dementia risk reduction was 9,826 steps. This is just below the oft-mentioned goal of 10,000 steps per day, suggesting that’s still a worthy achievement.
But if you can’t get in that many steps, don’t give up. The research shows that even half of that makes a difference…
Fewer Steps Still Benefits Your Memory
The point at which dementia risk was cut in half was a mere 3,826 steps per day.
Research co-author Borja del Pozo Cruz, PhD, of the University of Southern Denmark in Odense noted, “We estimated the minimum dose at approximately 3,800 steps per day, which was associated with 25 percent lower incident dementia.
“Other studies have found 4,400 steps to be associated with mortality outcomes. This finding suggests that population-wide dementia prevention might be improved by shifting away from the least-active end of the step-count distributions.”
But It’s Not Just Steps…
University of Wisconsin researchers Elizabeth Planalp, PhD, and Ozioma Okonkwo, PhD, wrote an editorial accompanying the report.
They noted that intensity of your walking cadence makes an impact in reducing your risk of dementia, too. They pointed out that a pace of at least 112 steps per minute in a 30-minute walk had the greatest impact on reducing dementia risk in this cohort, reducing dementia incidence by 62 percent instead of 50 percent.
While 112 steps per minute is a brisk pace, it also may be a less intimidating number than 10,000 steps – especially for those who’ve been physically inactive for a while.
The take-away is, if you’re walking to reduce your dementia risk, then don’t make it a Sunday stroll or casual walk. For reference, jogging starts at about 140 steps per minute. You might consider a dementia-reducing walk more like a “power walk.”
The team published their findings in the journal JAMA Neurology.
How to Add More Steps to Your Day
If you’re a long-time reader, then you know walking is my favorite exercise. It’s free, easy and I can do it just about any time, anywhere. In fact, I believe it’s so beneficial to health that I’m always trying to get more people into walking.
Now, with this research, you’ve got new motivation. Best of all, it’s easier than you think to add steps to your day. All you must do is…
- Track your steps. Make a game of it. If you don’t have a fitness watch but have a smart phone, download a step tracking app.
- Walk your dog. It’s a perfect bonding time and is healthy for you both.
- Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
- Use the buddy system. Find someone to walk with you and enjoy the companionship.
- Park further away from your office or stores. Added benefit: Less competition for parking spots.
- Walk first thing in the morning. Helps your circadian rhythm, perks up your metabolism, and gives a good start on your day’s total steps.
- Walk while on the phone.
- Split up your walks throughout the day. Three ten-minute walks are better than the one 30-minute walk you intended to take but never got around to!
- Walk your errands (if possible).
Remember, if this research proves anything it’s that every little step counts. Consider the sunshine, steps, and fresh air a worthy investment in maintaining your memory and your overall health.