The connection between Alzheimer's and dementia prevention and exercise has long been documented. However, an interesting study from UC San Diego was published recently. The study concluded that moderate to vigorous exercise, including daily walks, among older women reduced the risk of developing dementia.
Participants of the study were women aged 65 and above. The study found that among participants, each addition of 31 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise resulted in a 21% decrease in developing dementia or mild cognitive impairment. When about 1,900 additional steps were added to the participants' daily exercise, the risk of developing dementia was 33% lower.
10,000 Steps Per Day!
Taking a brisk daily walk for 30 minutes is one way to ensure this moderate-intensity exercise is happening. Another helpful metric is getting 10,000 steps per day. Most smartphones or smartwatches have built-in pedometers as a simple tool for measuring step counts. There are also inexpensive clip-on or wearable pedometers if someone prefers not to carry a WiFi-enabled device everywhere they go.
Dementia Begins 20+ Years Before Diagnosis
Research suggests that the onset of dementia begins 20 or more years before symptoms appear and before an individual is diagnosed. Therefore, exercise is one of the most potent and evidence-based ways to delay or prevent cognitive decline. Prevention is vitally important because once an individual receives a dementia diagnosis, it is very difficult to reverse or even slow the progression of the disease.
This UCSD study included about 1,300 participants. Daily, the women in the study averaged 3,200 steps, 10 hours of sitting, 270 minutes of light exercise, and 45 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity. The researchers stated that additional studies on dementia and exercise are needed among much larger and more diverse populations, including men.
Walking Offers Many Benefits for Seniors
Walking is a fantastic low-impact exercise option for seniors. It provides cardiovascular benefits while being easy on joints. It also helps older adults maintain and improve balance, flexibility, endurance, and strength—the four core fitness areas for seniors identified by the National Institute on Aging.
Additionally, walking provides great opportunities to connect socially and spend time in nature. Experiences in nature reduce depression, anxiety, and stress, all risk factors for older adults with Alzheimer's and dementia.
You might remember one of our previous blog posts where we highlight the walking trails at Lake Murray in La Mesa.
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