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Outwalking Alzheimer’s

Posted Jan 03 2011 9:24am
Taking a regular, daily walk is good for physical health, and now it appears that it may slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease and ward off mental decline as well. The amount of walking needed to realize these benefits to the brain is more than just a stroll around the block: researchers from the University of Pittsburgh concluded that to guard against cognitive decline, you’ve got to put in an average of at least five miles a week, every week, for about 10 years. The investigators analyzed data from an ongoing 20-year study looking at the weekly walking patterns among 426 seniors. At the start of the study, 44 of the participants already had Alzheimer’s and another 83 had mild cognitive impairment (in half of all cases, this disorder eventually progresses to Alzheimer’s). All the others were cognitively healthy. Ten years into the study, after accounting for age, gender, body-fat composition, head size and education level, the researchers found that brain volume was largest among participants who exercised the most (greater brain volume is a sign of general brain health and less brain cell death).  What’s more, walking five miles a week appeared to protect those with some form of cognitive impairment against further cognitive decline. The healthy participants had to walk six miles a week to protect their brain health.

My take? I’m not surprised by this finding. It fits in with earlier evidence showing that regular physical exercise can lower the risk of developing Alzheimer’s by up to 50 percent. A Japanese study followed 265 people with both normal mental function and mild cognitive impairment due to Alzheimer’s for a year. After 12 months of a moderate exercise intervention, 70 percent of participants showed significant improvement in memory function. And the more the participants exercised, the greater the improvement.

This article was written by Dr. Weil and can be found at

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