Walking May Stave Off Dementia
The scientists who undertook the study examined the exercise habits of 749 healthy men and women in Italy who were over age 65 and showed no signs of a memory disorder at the start of the investigation. Four years later, the subjects who walked most frequently were 27 percent less likely to have developed vascular dementia (a memory disorder caused by diminished blood flow to the brain) than the least-frequent walkers.
“It’s important to note that an easy-to-perform moderate activity like walking provided the same cognitive benefits as other, more demanding activities,” said study author Giovanni Ravaglia of University Hospital S. Orsola Malpighi, in Bologna, Italy.
In a related piece of research, which was reported last year in the journal Annals of Internal Medicine, more than 1,700 adults over age 65 were studied. Here, scientists also found that regular walkers have a reduced incidence of dementia. In particular, those subjects who walked three or more times a week had a dementia risk of 13 per 1,000 person years, but the adults who walked less often had a risk of 19.7 per 1,000 person years – which amounts to an almost 40 percent lower risk for the frequent walkers.
Researchers speculate that walking may help shield against dementia by improving blood flow in the brain and diminishing the risk of narrowing of the arteries, which can lead to vascular disease. The Neurology data failed to note a preventive effect of walking on Alzheimer’s disease (a form of dementia), but the authors said other studies have shown a benefit. Therefore, they said, more research must be done to clarify the exercise-Alzheimer’s relationship.
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