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If you want to keep your brain sharp in old age, just keep moving.
Researchers at the University of San Diego say women over 65 are less likely to develop mild cognitive impairment or dementia if they walk more and engage in moderate to vigorous physical activity on a daily basis.
The study published in the journal Alzheimer's & Dementia reveals that for every 31 additional minutes that older women spend in moderate to vigorous physical activity, they reduce the risk of cognitive decline by 21 percent.
Moreover, those risk profiles decreased by 33 percent with every 1,865 additional daily steps taken each day.
"Given that the onset of dementia begins 20 years or more before symptoms appear, early intervention to delay or prevent cognitive decline and dementia in older adults is essential," says study author Prof. Andrea Lecroix, from the Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health and Human Longevity Sciences at the University of California, Berkeley. in San Diego.
Dementia can be delayed or stopped by walking more every day.
A walking woman (Photo: ShutterStock)
Dementia can take many different forms, but doctors see all varieties as a debilitating neurological condition that can cause a person to lose their memory, as well as the ability to think clearly, solve problems, or stimulate basic thinking.
Mild cognitive impairment, meanwhile, is one of the earlier stages of memory loss or thinking problems — though it's not as severe as dementia.
Tens of millions of people are living with dementia today, but estimates predict that the number of cases worldwide will triple by 2050. It should be noted that dementia rates tend to be much higher among women than men.
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"Physical activity has been identified as one of the three most promising ways to reduce the risk of dementia and Alzheimer's disease. This is an important preventive measure because once dementia is diagnosed, it is very difficult to slow down or reverse the disease. There is no cure," explains Prof. Lacroix.
However, because few large-scale studies have used objective instruments to measure movement and sitting habits in relation to cognitive impairment and dementia, the study authors say that much of the published research on this topic relies on subjective self-report measures.
This project presented sample data from 1,277 women, all of whom wore research-grade accelerometers while going about their normal routine for a period of up to seven days.
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These activity measurements revealed that the women averaged 3,216 steps, 276 minutes of light physical activity, 45.5 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity and 10.5 hours of sitting each day.
Examples of light physical activity included slow walking, gardening or housework.
Fast walking, classified as moderate to vigorous physical activity.
It should be noted that the researchers add that more time spent sitting and prolonged sitting habits were not associated with a higher risk of mild cognitive impairment or dementia.
Overall, given the fact that there is very little information regarding the amount and intensity of physical activity required to lower the risk of dementia, the researchers believe that these findings have valuable clinical and public health importance.
"Adults can be encouraged to increase movement with at least moderate intensity and take more steps each day for a lower risk of mild cognitive impairment and dementia," the researchers conclude.
"The findings on steps per day are particularly noteworthy because steps are recorded by a variety of wearable devices that are increasingly worn by people and can be easily adopted."
Further, the authors of the study say that further research is needed that covers a larger sample group that includes men.