You already know that exercise helps your heart, but it may be just as important for a healthy brain. New research shows it reduces cognitive decline and even slows down the progression of dementia.
Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive disease that slowly destroys a person’s ability to think and remember. Unfortunately, there are no treatments that stop the progression of this devastating brain disease.
Some people with mild memory loss and cognitive issues don’t have full-blown dementia, but instead have a condition called MCI, or mild cognitive impairment. Even though the symptoms of MCI are milder than the cognitive issues people with dementia experience, almost half of them progress to dementia over time.
There may be a natural way to slow down the progression of dementia and MCI that doesn’t involve the use of medications – by walking.
Walking to Slow Progression of Dementia
University of Pittsburgh researchers are currently conducting a twenty year study looking at the relationship between walking and cognitive impairment. This study includes 426 people, some healthy and some with cognitive dysfunction.
For this study, researchers monitored how much the participants walked each week and compared it to MRI exams that measured their brain volume. A higher brain volume is a marker for a healthier brain since a larger volume means there are more vital, living brain cells.
What did they find? People with dementia or MCI could prevent further loss in brain volume by walking about five miles per week, while normal people needed to walk around six miles per week to ward off brain shrinkage. In this study, cognitive test scores also declined significantly more in the less active group compared to the participants who walked at least five miles a week.
This is good news not only for Alzheimer’s disease sufferers, but healthy adults as well. It shows that walking at least five miles a week slows progression of dementia and mild cognitive decline – and protects normal adults from loss of brain volume that could lead to dementia later.
Walking to Slow Cognitive Decline: The Bottom Line?
Most people can find the time to walk at least five miles a week, and it’s a small price to pay to keep healthy brain cells and ward off dementia. So, what’s stopping you? Take at least a twenty minute walk each day to keep your brain healthy.
Eurekalert.org. “Walking Slows Progression of Alzheimer’s”