Walking at Least 3,800 Steps Per Day Might Reduce Your Risk of Dementia, New Research Shows

People who walked more than 40 steps per minute reaped the most benefits, but even slower walkers were able to cut their risk of mental decline significantly.

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There are many proven benefits to walking—it improves cardiovascular fitness, reduces your risk of heart attack, and even boosts brain health. But the question that still lingers is how much walking do you need to do to reap those rewards? If your main goal is to stave off mental decline, there is finally an answer. According to a recent study published in the JAMA Network, you'll need to walk between 3,800 and 9,800 steps each day to reduce your risk of dementia.

The researchers used a UK Biobank population-based cohort study, conducted from 2013 to 2015 to obtain their findings. In total, there were 78,430 adults aged 40 to 79 years included in the study. Each participant had to wear a wrist accelerometer, which allowed the researchers to count how many steps they took daily.

After tracking each subjects' daily step count, they were then split into two categories: people who walked fewer than 40 steps per minute (incidental steps) and those who walked more than 40 steps per minute (purposeful walking). The researchers also examined participants who took the most steps within 30 minutes over an entire day.

Once they had their numbers, the researchers then compared each person's walking habits against their diagnosis of dementia seven years after tracking their steps. The scientists also looked at age, ethnicity, education, sex, socio-emotional status, and how many days each subject wore an accelerator.

According to the study results, people who took 9,826 steps per day were 50% less likely to develop dementia within seven years. Additionally, people who walked more than 40 steps per minute, about 6,315 steps per day, cut their risk of dementia by 57%. Even slower walkers—those who walked approximately 3,800 steps per day, were able to decrease their risk of developing dementia by 25%.

Despite the promising findings, researchers note that there were some limitations to the study. Because it was only observational, it cannot directly correlate walking and a lower risk of dementia. The researchers also note that the younger age range of the participants may have also contributed to the positive results.

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