A natural human activity can help keep dementia at bay.
Posted October 27, 2010
Can we personally avoid Alzheimer’s? Many books have been written on the subject, with suggestions varying from coffee to apple juice to flossing your teeth. Yet one of the most effective strategies may be to take a walk—preferably every day.
University of Pittsburgh researchers looked at the brain MRI scans of 299 people in their 70’s, four years ago and now. Their report found over 40% demonstrating some form of cognitive decline. Those who walked the most had half the cognitive decline of those who walked the least—controlling other variables as well they could.
How much did they move? About 6-9 miles a week—effectively a mile a day. Not all in one trip, either. Steady as she goes works seems to work fine.
Why It Works
Alzheimer’s is supposed to start early, often taking decades to develop. More and more biomarkers are becoming developed that look at early chemical changes in spinal cord fluid, changing the way clinicians view the disease. So it’s remarkable that even in your seventies, walking can do so much to prevent Alzheimer’s.
But walking can do a lot at any age. It can:
- Build new brain cells, in memory areas, during sleep.
- Improve memory, perhaps partly through increasing brain derived nerve growth factors.
- Decrease risk of heart disease and stroke.
- Help clean up arteries throughout the body.
Humans are walking machines. In hunter-gatherer societies, people walk 12-14 miles a day. In Victorian times, people often walked 20-25 miles a day.
And even one mile a day can help prevent Alzheimer’s. That’s just one more reason to take a stroll.
Dr. Matthew Edlund, M.D., M.O.H., is an internationally recognized expert on rest, sleep, and body clocks. His books include The Body Clock Advantage, Designed to Last, and Psychological Time and Mental Illness. His new book, The Power of Rest, shows that rest is a skill that rebuilds, renews, and rewires mind and body, and can increase productivity, health, and pleasure. For more information, visit his website, TheRestDoctor.com. You can also subscribe to his new Fitcast via the iTunes Store.