More than 50 million people are living with Alzheimer’s disease worldwide. What’s more, experts predict that these numbers will only increase in coming years.
In spite of these troubling statistics, there’s hopeful news because researchers now believe that wise lifestyle choices can prevent many cases.
Exercise is one of those choices. And now there’s new, compelling evidence that a specific type of exercise is a powerful medicine for brain health.
Is all exercise created equal? Not according to this. . .
It turns out the best route to good brain health may be as easy as putting one foot in front of the other. Walking not only helps with daily sharpness and clarity, but also decreases our risks of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease.
In a University of California study1 focusing on 600 elderly women, researchers found that the women who walked the most were less likely to develop cognitive decline during a 6-8-year follow-up. And in another large study2, researchers observed that women who walked the equivalent of a 21-30 minute-per-mile pace experienced better cognitive performance.
Move Your Legs, Benefit Your Brain
There’s more: A British study3 concluded that leg strength you gain from walking is strongly linked with healthier brain aging. The ten-year study involved 324 healthy female indentical twins, aged 43-73. The study’s lead author, Claire Steves, noted that identical twins are a useful comparison because they share many factors, such as genetics and early life, which don’t change in adulthood.
Researchers found that stronger leg strength improved the flow of blood to the brain and ultimately improved cognitive aging. To that point, the twin with more leg strength at the start of the study maintained her cognitive abilities better and experienced fewer age-related changes than her weaker twin.
Another study recently published in Frontiers in Neuroscience4 found that using the legs, especially in weight-bearing exercise, such as walking, sends signals to the brain that are vital for the production of healthy neural cells. These neural cells are essential for the brain and nervous system.
It’s Never Too Late!
The above research is encouraging, but what about people who already suffer from early Alzheimer’s symptoms? Researchers now believe it’s never too late to benefit from walking. One study5 found that walking stabilizes cognitive function in people with early-stage dementia.
And even more exciting, among the active Alzheimer’s participants, those people who walked for more than two hours per week had a significant improvement in cognitive scores!
In another study6, researchers studied 2,257 physically capable men between the ages of 71 and 93. They found that those who walked less than two miles a day experienced an 80% greater risk of dementia compared to those who walked more than two miles daily.
Long-time readers probably know I’ve been urging people to take a daily walk for years, in this newsletter and three other publications I edit. This is what I do myself, and the benefits have been wonderful. I started it several years ago following a prostate cancer scare (exercise also prevents cancer).
I have early arthritis and it’s hard for me to do any other type of exercise. And there’s little need to. A daily walk does the job.
So tie up those sneakers because better brain health may be just a few steps away.