senior couple walking outsideFor decades, doctors diagnosed Alzheimer’s disease based on concerns of memory loss. Yet the growing body of research on this condition suggests a more complex progression, one affected by daily habits that can have a physical impact.

Multiple studies have identified one daily habit that can lower risk for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia: Walking.

Research on Regularly Walking

A study conducted by the University of Maryland School of Public Health identified a relationship between routine exercise and the delayed onset of Alzheimer’s disease.

To arrive at these findings, researchers assessed the brains and memories of two groups of older adults: Those with normal brain function and those with mild cognitive impairment.

The 33 participants were prescribed an exercise regimen and the researchers read them all a story, asking them to recite as many details as they could. All participants also underwent an MRI, which examined their neural connections and communication.

After undergoing the same sequence of tests for 12 weeks, the researchers noticed that all participants recalled more details from the story. Medical imaging indicated greater, more synchronized activity for individuals given the prescribed exercise routine, even those with mild cognitive impairment.

Another study published in JAMA Neurology found a correlation between daily walking and the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Researchers followed 78,000 people between the ages of 40 and 79 for seven years.

Using fitness trackers, data indicated that those who walked nearly 10,000 steps a day were 51 percent less likely to develop dementia than those who were not regularly active. Those who walked 3,800 steps a day were 25 percent less likely to develop dementia.

Additionally, participants who walked at a pace of 40 or more steps per minute also had lower dementia diagnosis rates. In fact, those walking the fastest pace – 112 steps per minute – were 62 percent less likely to be diagnosed compared to those who did not exercise at all.

Other studies have examined exercise from a broader angle in relation to rates of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Data found that physical activity of any kind, including household chores, lowered dementia risks by 21 percent. Patients who participate in more intensive exercise have even lower risks compared to those not involved in any kind of activity.

Researchers further observed these effects in patients already developing plaques and tangles in the brain, noting that exercise may increase levels of a certain protein that improves neurological communication.

Alzheimer’s Disease and Gait Changes

While walking can help delay the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, gait changes show its development. In the early stages, patients often walk as they normally would but even at this point, research has found that individuals who walk at a slower pace or whose overall speed has declined may have higher risks for dementia.
Are you concerned about caring for a loved one with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease? The team at Avon Health Center can provide them with experienced care. To learn more about our services, contact us today.