How to reduce your risk of dementia? The Mental benefits of walking
The upcoming sunny skies and pleasant weather pave the way to the perfect time to explore the outdoors. One particular activity is easy to do and protects your brain. The humble activity with big brain benefits is walking. A major study in the UK comprising of almost 80,000 adults reported that walking can lower your risk of dementia . This is one of the many mental health benefits of walking.
Walking towards a protected brain.
The 2022 study  examined those over the age of 40 to investigate the connection between dementia and walking. The number of steps you walk, and your speed of walking can have protective effects against dementia. The health messages around 10k steps for health may have additional benefits to them. This study found that:
walking 9826 steps regularly reduced dementia risk by over 50%.
If you are just starting out and feel that almost 10k steps a day seems like a monumental task, even less than half of that, can also bring brain benefits. In fact, the study also found that:
walking 3826 steps lowered dementia risk by 25%.
The benefits of walking have also been explored in past research. A study  among those over the age of 70 found that:
walking at least 1 mile per day lowered cognitive impairment risk by almost 50%
Supercharge your walks for brain benefits by increasing your pace. Brisk walking, where your heart rate increases and you start to break a sweat is recommended. The study  suggests a speed of
112 steps per minute to lower dementia risk.
Simply count the number of steps you take in 10 seconds and multiply that by 6 to get your total steps per minute. This is one way to ensure you are walking at the optimal speed.
Preparing for the future is great and being proactive in lowering your dementia risk will pay in multitude in old age. You can still reap benefits if you have already reached old age. A study  among those with Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia found that
those who walked for 2 hours a week had higher memory and attention scores
than those who were sedentary. These benefits can be observed in a short time. A 4-month long study where those with Alzheimer’s performed simple exercises along with 30 minutes of brisk walking saw improved cognitive scores. There is always time to step up to protect cognitive functions, even when suffering from dementia.
What happens in your brain when you walk?
Increasing your physical activity, through walking or performing different exercises benefits physical and mental health. The link between exercise and dementia risk reduction has been extensively studied. A year of consistently brisk walking and other aerobic exercises can literally increase your brain size. This was seen in studies where active older adults had larger brain areas especially those of memory and attention compared to sedentary individuals . Brain scans found improved connectivity between brain cells after 6-12 months of exercise. A better-connected brain is a better protected brain that can fight dementia.
Exercise provides the dual benefit of increasing compounds that promote new brain cells production and decreasing accumulation of harmful Alzheimer’s compounds .
Walking also provides benefits like reduction of depressive symptoms, uplifting mood, decreasing stress, thus improving overall psychological well-being . This adds to protection of your brain, decreasing dementia risk in the long run.
Walking is an easy, simple, and effective form of exercise. Keep motivating yourself to get your 10k steps in, your brain will thank you for it.