Want to reduce your risk of dementia?  Start counting steps

Want to reduce your risk of dementia? Start counting steps

Want to reduce your risk of dementia? Get a counter and start counting your steps. You’ll need to take between 3800 and 9800 steps a day to reduce your risk of mental decline, according to a new study.

People aged 40 to 79 who took 9826 steps a day were 50% less likely to develop dementia within seven years, the study found. In addition, people who walked with “a purpose”, i.e. at a pace greater than 40 steps per minute, managed to reduce their risk of dementia by 57% with just 6315 steps per day.

“It’s a fast-paced activity, like when we’re in a hurry,” said study co-author Borja del Pozo Cruz, an adjunct professor at the University of Southern Denmark, in Odense, and a senior researcher in health sciences at the University of Cádiz, Spain. .

Even people who took approximately 3800 steps a day, at any speed, reduced their risk of dementia by 25%, according to the study.

“That would be enough, at first, for sedentary individuals,” said del Pozo Cruz.

“It’s actually a message that doctors can use to motivate very sedentary seniors. Four thousand steps is easy to take for many, even those who are less fit or not feeling very motivated,” she added. “Perhaps the most active and fit individuals should aim for the 10,000, where the maximum effects are observed.”

But there was an even more interesting result in the study, according to an editorial titled “Is 112 the New 10 000?” published in JAMA Neurology.

The biggest reduction in dementia risk – 62% – was achieved by people who walked at a very fast pace of 112 steps per minute for 30 minutes of the day. Previous research considered 100 steps per minute (4.3 kilometers per hour) to be a “fast” or moderate intensity level.

The editorial argues that individuals looking to reduce their risk of dementia should focus on the pace of walking over the distance covered.

“While 112 steps per minute represents a fairly fast cadence, ‘112’ is conceivably a much easier number to control and less intimidating for most individuals than ‘10,000’, especially if the same individuals are physically inactive or underactive. ,” wrote Alzheimer’s Disease researchers Ozioma Okonkwo and Elizabeth Planalp in the editorial. Okonkwo is an associate professor in the Department of Medicine at the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Planalp is a research scientist at the Okonkwo laboratory.

“We agree that this is a very interesting discovery,” said del Pozo Cruz. “We think the intensity of the steps matters! More than quantity. The technology can be used to track not just the number of steps, but also the pace, and therefore this type of metric can also be incorporated into commercial watches. More research will be needed on this.”

Don’t have a step counter? You can count the number of steps you take in 10 seconds and then multiply it by six. Or the number of steps you take in six seconds and multiply it by 10. Either way, it works. But remember, everyone’s steps are different lengths and everyone has a different level of fitness. What might be fast paced for a 40-year-old might not be sustainable for a 70-year-old.

Inside the study

The study 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 number of steps per day and then classified them into two categories: less than 40 steps per minute – which is a light walk, like when we go from one room to another – and more 40 steps per minute, or the so-called “intentional” walk. The researchers also looked at the best performers – those who took the most steps in 30 minutes over the course of a day (although those 30 minutes didn’t have to happen on the same walk).

Then the researchers compared each person’s steps with a diagnosis of dementia of any type made seven years later. After controlling for age, ethnicity, education, sex, socio-emotional status and the number of days they used an accelerometer, the researchers also considered lifestyle variables such as poor diet, smoking, drinking. alcohol, medication use, sleep problems and a history of cardiovascular disease.

The study had some limitations, the authors point out — it was observational only, so it cannot establish a direct cause and effect between walking and a lower risk of dementia. Furthermore, “the age range of participants may have resulted in limited cases of dementia, which means our results may not be generalizable to older populations.”

“As 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 was much higher,” the authors added.

While they agree that the findings cannot be interpreted as direct cause and effect, “the growing evidence supporting the benefits of physical activity for maintaining optimal brain health cannot continue to be discounted,” Okonkwo and Planalp wrote.

“It is time physical inactivity management was considered an intrinsic part of routine primary care visits for the elderly,” they added.

Research makes sense

In fact, recent research published in July found that many leisure activities, such as housework, exercise, teaching adults, and visiting family and friends, affected the risk of dementia in middle-aged people.

Adults highly involved in physical activities, such as frequent exercise, had a 35% lower risk of developing dementia compared with people less involved in these activities, the researchers found.

Doing housework regularly reduced the risk by 21%, while daily visits with family and friends reduced the risk of dementia by 15%, compared to people who were less involved.

All study participants benefited from the protective effect of physical and mental activities, regardless of whether or not they had a family history of dementia, the researchers found.

Another study published in January found that exercise can delay dementia in active seniors whose brains already showed signs of plaque, tangles and other hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease and other cognitive disorders.

That study found that exercise increases levels of a protein known to strengthen communication between brain cells across synapses, which may be a key factor in keeping dementia at bay.

“To a large extent, dementia is preventable,” said del Pozo Cruz. “Physical activity, as well as other lifestyle behaviors such as not drinking alcohol and tobacco, maintaining a healthy diet and weight, and getting adequate sleep, can put you on the right path to avoid dementia.”

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