Want to reduce your risk of dementia?  Start counting steps

Walking may lower risk of early death – but it’s not just about taking steps

Put on your sneakers and don’t forget your step counter. You can reduce your risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease and early death if you take 10,000 steps a day, but the important thing is to walk, no matter how long, according to a new study.

The health benefits increased with each step, the study found, but peaked at 10,000 steps. After that the effects disappeared.

Counting steps can be especially important for people who engage in unstructured and unplanned physical activity, such as housework, gardening, and dog walks.

“We detected an association between fortuitous steps (steps taken in everyday life) and a lower risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease,” noted study co-author Borja del Pozo Cruz, an associate professor at the University of Southern Denmark in Odense and a senior researcher. in health sciences from the University of Cádiz, Spain.

“Overall, I think the study is well done and substantiates what is already known, that exercise is good for you,” said Andrew Freeman, director of cardiovascular prevention and wellness at National Jewish Health in Denver, Colorado. , who was not involved in the investigation.

“Physical activity is absolutely magnificent,” Freeman said. “And if we combine that with a more plant-based diet, not getting stressed, getting enough sleep and getting along with others, that’s the magic recipe. It’s the fountain of youth, if you will.”

Walking also helps with dementia

Del Pozo Cruz and his team recently published a similar study that found that walking 10,000 steps a day reduced the risk of dementia by 50%. The risk decreases by 25% with just 3,800 steps a day, according to the previous study.

However, walking at a brisk pace of 112 steps per minute for 30 minutes maximizes risk reduction, leading to a 62% reduction in dementia risk. The 30-minute brisk walk doesn’t have to be done all at once either – it can be done throughout the day.

“Our opinion is that the intensity of the steps is relevant, in addition to the volume,” said del Pozo Cruz.

The new study, published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine, followed 78,500 people between the ages of 40 and 79 from England, Scotland and Wales who wore step-counting watches 24 hours a day over a period of seven days.

After counting the total number of steps per day for all people, the researchers divided them into two categories: less than 40 steps per minute – which is more ambulatory, as when walking from room to room – and more than 40 steps per minute, or the so-called “purposeful” walk.

A third category was created for high performers—those who took the most steps per minute in 30 minutes over the course of a day (although those 30 minutes did not have to occur in sequence).

About seven years later, the researchers compared that data with medical records and found that people who took the most steps per minute — in this case, about 80 steps per minute — had the greatest reduction in their risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease and death. early for any reason.

The researchers found that the association between more steps in 30 minutes and reduced risk depends on the disease studied.

“We observed a 62% reduction in dementia, almost 80% in mortality and incidence of cardiovascular diseases and approximately 20% in cancer”, pointed out Del Pozo Cruz.

“Overall, it puts a strain on the body and that can lead to more muscle, a bigger heart and a better physical shape, all of which are known protective factors for cardiovascular disease and cancer, and for other health problems.”

get out of breath

What is the conclusion? “We don’t have to strictly follow the number of steps (unless we really want to),” Freeman said.

“Does every step count? Without a doubt. And we know that a brisk walk every day has extra benefits in terms of lowering blood pressure, cardiovascular training and so on,” added Freeman, who was the founding president of the Nutrition working group. & Lifestyle from the American College of Cardiology.

“But the truth is, the same goal has always applied: challenge yourself no matter what fitness level you are at. Obviously, talk to your doctor first, but your goal is to be out of breath 30 minutes a day.”

What is shortness of breath in relation to exercise? “It’s not about being completely out of breath to the point where you can barely breathe. Instead, shortness of breath is when we walk with a person, they talk to us and we have some difficulty responding,” explained Freeman.

“Spend 30 minutes breathless at whatever pace you can, and then continue to challenge yourself to the point where you’re slightly dissatisfied with your current level so you can get better and better,” Freeman said.

Often, being more physically active leads to other healthy habits, like eating better, and discouraging unhealthy habits, like smoking, he added.

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