(CNN) — Do you want to reduce the risk of dementia? Put on a step counter and start counting them: You’ll need between 3,800 and 9,800 each day to reduce the risk of mental decline, according to a new study.
According to the study, people between the ages of 40 and 79 who walked 9,826 steps a day were 50% less likely to develop dementia within seven years. In addition, people who walked with “purpose” at a rate greater than 40 steps per minute were able to reduce their risk of dementia by 57% with just 6,315 steps a day.
“It’s about brisk, brisk walking, like a ‘power walk,'” said study co-author Borja del Pozo Cruz, an adjunct professor at the University of Southern Denmark in Odense, Denmark, and principal investigator for science at health from the University of Cadiz, Spain.
Even people who walked about 3,800 steps a day at any speed reduced their risk of dementia by 25%, according to the study.
“That would be enough, in principle, for sedentary individuals,” del Pozo Cruz said in an email.
“In fact, it’s a message that clinicians could use to motivate highly sedentary older adults: 4,000 steps is very doable for many, even those who are less fit or not very motivated,” he added. “Perhaps the fittest, most active individuals should aim for 10,000, where we recorded the maximum effects.”
But they found an even more interesting result buried in the study, according to an editorial titled “Is 112 the new 10,000?” published this Tuesday in JAMA Neurology.
The greatest reduction in dementia risk, 62%, was achieved by people who walked at a very fast pace of 112 steps per minute for 30 minutes a day, according to the study. In previous investigations 100 steps per minute was considered a “fast” or moderate intensity level.
The editorial argued that people looking to reduce their risk of dementia should focus on their walking pace over distance walked.
“Although 112 steps/min is a fairly fast cadence, ‘112’ is a much more manageable and less intimidating number for most people than ‘10,000,’ especially if they have been inactive or not very active,” they write in the editorial. Ozioma Okonkwo and Elizabeth Planalp, Alzheimer’s researchers Okonkwo is an associate professor in the department of medicine at the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and Planalp is a research scientist in Okonkwo’s lab.
“We agree that this is a very interesting find,” del Pozo Cruz said by email.
“Our view is that stride intensity matters. Beyond volume. Technology could be used to track not only the number of steps, but also the pace, and thus these types of metrics could be incorporated into commercial watches as well. We need to continue investigating this.”
Don’t have a step counter? You can count the number of steps you take in 10 seconds and multiply by six, or the number of steps you take in six seconds and multiply by 10. Either way works. But remember that not all steps are the same length, nor are all people in the same shape. What may be a fast pace for a 40-year-old may not be sustainable for a 70-year-old.
Editor’s Note: Before starting any new exercise program, consult your doctor. Stop the activity immediately if you feel pain.
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The study, also published Tuesday in the academic journal JAMA Neurology, analyzed data from more than 78,000 people between the ages of 40 and 79 who wore wrist accelerometers. The researchers counted the total number of daily steps for each person and then classified them into two categories: less than 40 steps per minute, which is more of a walk, like walking from room to room, and more than 40 steps per minute. minute, or what is called “purposeful” walking. The researchers also looked at top performers, meaning those who took the most steps in 30 minutes over the course of a day (although those 30 minutes didn’t have to happen in a row).
The researchers then compared that person’s steps to their diagnosis of dementia of any kind seven years later. After controlling for age, ethnicity, education, gender, socioemotional status, and number of days wearing an accelerometer, the researchers also took into account lifestyle variables such as poor diet, smoking, alcohol use, medication use, sleep problems, and a history of cardiovascular disease.
The study has some limitations, its authors note: It was only observational, so it can’t establish a direct cause and effect between walking and a lower risk of dementia. In addition, “the age range of the participants may have led to a limited number of dementia cases, which means that our results may not be generalizable to older populations,” the study notes.
“Since there are often considerable delays in diagnosing 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 was much higher,” the authors added.
Although they agree that the findings cannot be interpreted as direct cause and effect, “the growing evidence in support of the benefits of physical activity in maintaining optimal brain health can no longer be ignored,” Okonkwo and Planalp wrote.
“It is time that physical inactivity management is considered an intrinsic part of routine primary care visits for older adults,” they added.
The research is consistent
In fact, recent research published in July found that many leisure activities, such as housework, exercise, adult education classes, and visits with family and friends, affected dementia risk in middle-aged people.
The researchers found that adults who engaged in a lot of physical activity, such as frequent exercise, had a 35% lower risk of developing dementia, compared to people who engaged in these activities the least.
Regularly performing household chores reduced risk by 21%, while daily visits to family and friends lowered dementia risk by 15%, compared with people less involved with others.
All study participants benefited from the protective effect of physical and mental activities, whether or not they had a family history of dementia, according to the researchers.
Another study published in January found that exercise can slow dementia in active older people whose brains already showed signs of plaques, tangles and other hallmarks of Alzheimer’s and other cognitive diseases.
That study found that exercise increases levels of a protein known to boost communication between brain cells across synapses, which could be a key factor in keeping dementia at bay.
“Dementia is largely preventable,” del Pozo Cruz said. “Physical activity, as well as other lifestyle behaviors, such as not drinking and smoking, maintaining a healthy diet and weight, and sleeping, can put you on the right track to avoid dementia.”