Walking Just 1,800 More Steps Every Day Could Cut Your Dementia Risk by a Third, Science Says

Researchers also found that exercising for an additional 31 minutes each day may reduce your risk of developing mild cognitive impairment.

Numerous studies have examined the benefits of walking and have found the form of exercise is incredible for brain and heart health, as well as overall longevity. Now, a new study is shedding more light on just how many steps women should take each day to reap the cognitive benefits of walking.

The research, which was published in Alzheimer's & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer's Association, sampled data from 1,277 women as part of two Women's Health Initiative ancillary studies. The women were given research-grade accelerometers to track their daily activities over the course of seven days. During the week-long period, researchers tracked the participants' physical activity and sitting metrics.

Caucasian woman walking dogs on dirt path
Ronnie Kaufman / GETTY IMAGES

The activity trackers showed the women averaged 3,216 steps, 276 minutes of light physical activity, more than 45 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, and 10.5 hours of sitting per day. Housework, gardening, and walking were examples of light physical activity participants engaged in, while vigorous activity included brisk walking.

Researchers found that women 65 years or older had a 21 percent lower risk of developing mild cognitive impairment or dementia for each additional 31 minutes of daily moderate-to-vigorous activity they engaged in. What's more, each additional 1,865 daily steps was associated with a 33 percent lower risk of developing cognitive impairment. Additionally, the study found that higher amounts of sitting and prolonged sitting were not associated with an increased risk of mild cognitive impairment or dementia.

Their findings further reinforce how important it is to get moving as we age. "Physical activity has been identified as one of the three most promising ways to reduce the risk of dementia and Alzheimer's disease," senior author Andrea LaCroix, Ph.D., M.P.H., professor at the Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health and Human Longevity Science at UC San Diego told SciTechDaily. "Prevention is important because once dementia is diagnosed, it is very difficult to slow or reverse. There is no cure."

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