Dhen among health-conscious people, sitting has become the new smoking and walking is the counterpart to fruit and vegetables is a trend that not everyone can understand. After all, people used to grow old and not everyone who snuggled up on the sofa for whole weekends was carried to their grave afterwards. Unfortunately, anecdotal reports from ninety-year-old relatives do not provide any information about a healthy lifestyle.
Scientists therefore try to back up with facts what seems plausible. For example, that exercise is good for health. And so doctors have already found out that 6000 to 8000 steps a day is associated with a longer life expectancy. Running more reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and cancer.
Now scientists also wanted to find out whether regular walking can also reduce the likelihood of developing dementia. This is already recognized in the dementia guidelines. One has other measures to reduce the risk of dementia Commission summarized, which was compiled by the specialist magazine "The Lancet": You should avoid drinking alcohol and smoking, avoid injuring your head as much as possible and avoid severe air pollution. Anyone who treats existing obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes reduces their risk of dementia, as does anyone who is hard of hearing and therefore buys a hearing aid. Higher education and social activity have also turned out to be protective factors against dementia: If the brain has to deal with unforeseen situations throughout life and learn from them, the brain practically stays young.
If you sit too much, your brain is not challenged
Neurologists also regard modern immobility as an important risk factor for dementia. If you sit too much, if you are inactive, your brain is not challenged and the age-related loss of cognitive abilities can progress unchecked.
In a major study, scientists led by Sharon L. Naismith from the University of Sydney have now examined what the movement should look like. Is it the proverbial 10,000 steps a day that can practically outrun dementia? Does the risk decrease the more steps you take? Or is this rule too general?
The Australian research team describes in the American Medical journal "JAMA", that they used data from a UK biobank cohort study. Between February 2013 and December 2015, they analyzed the participants' running activity, which was recorded using a wrist-worn pedometer. They then followed the movement profiles of the test subjects for almost seven years - in order to be able to determine whether dementia was manifested in them. In total, the data of 78,430 adults between the ages of 40 and 79 were taken into account.
With regard to the steps, they differentiated between whether they had walked less than 40 steps per minute and therefore rather slowly, or whether they were walking with more than 40 steps per minute and thus obviously a fixed goal. They also determined the average walking speed of the fastest running phase of each day.
The result: the more steps the study participants took per day, the lower their risk of dementia. However, the connection was not linear - the risk of disease does not decrease by the same amount with each step. Those who walked around 9,800 steps a day reduced the risk of developing dementia by 50 percent, and those who walked 3,800 steps by 25 percent. The scientists identified the greatest success – a reduction of 57 percent – among the participants who ran 6,300 steps – and who also ran very quickly in between, at 112 steps per minute.
The study is remarkable because practical recommendations can be derived from it: It is not absolutely necessary to walk 10,000 steps or around seven kilometers a day to significantly reduce the risk of dementia - even less than a third of this has a significant effect . This is important news for older people who find it harder to walk.
And the study's second finding - that people who walked the high pace of 112 steps per minute for 30 minutes had the greatest reduction in dementia risk - should also be thought-provoking. Although Elizabeth M. Planalp and Ozioma C. Okonkwo emphasize in an accompanying Editorial in “Jama“ that the study does not show whether the fast runners had a reduced risk of illness due to the fast running and whether a high pace had to be maintained for 30 minutes. Or whether the mere ability to accelerate for half an hour already shows that the risk is reduced, and perhaps even 10 minutes of power walking at a pace of 112 steps per minute protects. In general, however, the JAMA study confirms that exercise protects - and it shows that you don't have to walk 10,000 steps a day to counteract the mental decline.