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Keep Dementia Away by Walking

- Wednesday, July 13, 2011

As we age and our memory starts to fade, we all worry about our mental health and the potential for cognitive decline. But maintaining our mental health may not be any harder than going for a walk. A new, nine year study found that walking can keep dementia at bay. So put on your sneakers and go for a walk. Walking six miles a week protects the brain from shrinkage, which may slow the progress of cognitive decline.

Brain size shrinks late in adulthood which often is the start of dementia. Other studies suggest that physical activity protects against the deterioration of brain tissue, but no long-term studies have tested that theory. A study from the University of Pittsburgh wanted to do just that.

They asked 299 healthy, dementia-free men and women, average age 78, to keep track of the number of blocks they walked in a week.

After nine years, the researchers measured the brain size of the participants using high-resolution brain scans. The men and women who walked more had more gray matter. Those who walked approximately six to nine miles a week fared best, even after taking into account variables such as age, sex, body mass index and education. Walking more than 6-9 miles in a week didn't provide extra benefits.