October 5, 2022
Numerous studies have shown that walking is good for your health, including the health of your brain. Now a large new analysis reports just how many steps a day is optimal for reducing your risk of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
The study found that walking about 10,00 steps a day was the optimal dose linked to lower risk of dementia, cutting the risk by up to 50 percent. However, walking shorter amounts also had benefits for brain health. Walking 3,800 steps a day, the researchers report, reduced dementia risk by 25 percent.
Walking more than 10,000 steps a day did not seem to provide significant additional protection against dementia. But walking at a faster pace, or with greater intensity, as in a “power walk,” did.
A companion analysis also found that taking up to 10,000 steps a day reduced the risk of dying prematurely, and lowered the risk of heart disease and cancer.
“The take-home message here is that for protective health benefits people could not only ideally aim for 10,000 steps a day but also aim to walk faster,” said study author Dr. Matthew Ahmadi, a research fellow at the University of Sydney in Australia. Around “10,000 steps a day is the sweet spot for health benefits, and walking faster is associated with additional benefits.”
“For less active individuals, our study also demonstrates that as low as 3,800 steps a day can cut the risk of dementia by 25 percent,” added study author Borja del Pozo Cruz, associate professor at the University of Southern Denmark.
The analysis, published in JAMA Neurology, looked at 78,430 British adults aged 40 to 79. All were free of Alzheimer’s disease or other serious illnesses at the start of the study. Participants wore fitness trackers on their wrists to obtain an average of their typical daily step counts.
The researchers followed them over the next seven years. During that time, 866 of them developed Alzheimer’s disease or other forms of dementia, most of whom were in their late 60s or older.
Walking close to 10,000 steps a day (the scientific study reports 9,826 after statistical analysis) seemed to be the optimal step count for warding off dementia, associated with a 50 percent reduced risk compared to those of similar age who were sedentary. Those who walked at higher intensity, at a pace of at least 40 steps a minute, were able to cut their risk by 57 percent with just 6,315 steps a day. The greatest reduction in risk, of 62 percent, occurred among those who “power walked” for an average of 30 minutes a day at a very brisk pace of 112 steps a minute.
The study showed only an association between walking and lowered dementia risk and could not prove cause and effect. But the findings bolster earlier research showing that taking at least 6,000 to 8,000 steps a day is good for your health and reduces the risk of dying prematurely. Taking up to 10,000 steps a day, especially when walking briskly, has also been shown to reduce the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes, a risk factor for developing dementia.
And as this study found, even walking 3,000 or 4,000 steps can have sizable benefits. “Every step counts,” said Dr. del Pozo Cruz.
By ALZinfo.org, The Alzheimer’s Information Site. Reviewed by Marc Flajolet, Ph.D., Fisher Center for Alzheimer’s Research Foundation at The Rockefeller University.
Source: Borja del Pozo Cruz, PhD; Matthew Ahmadi, PhD; Shron L. Naismith, PhD; et al: “Association of Daily Step Count and Intensity With Incident Dementia in 78,430 Adults Living in the UK.” JAMA Neurology, September 6, 2022