Lacing up your sneakers and taking a stroll each day is good for your heart, lungs and — a recent study suggests — brain.

People between the ages of 40 and 79 who took 9,826 steps each day were 50% less likely to develop dementia over the following seven years, according to a study published in JAMA Neurology, a journal of the American Medical Association.

And taking a more spirited approach and walking briskly — defined as more than 40 steps per minute — brings even better results, dropping dementia risk by 57% with just 6,315 steps a day.

The largest decline in dementia risk resulted from walking at a very brisk pace of 112 steps per minute for 30 minutes a day. Such a regimen lowered the risk of dementia by 62%.

There is also good news for those who find these requirements intimidating: Even a regular daily routine of walking about 3,800 steps at any speed drops dementia risk by 25%.

In an email interview with CNN, lead study author Borja del Pozo Cruz — of the Center for Active and Healthy Ageing at the University of Southern Denmark — says:

“In fact, it is a message that doctors could use to motivate very sedentary older adults — 4K steps is very doable by many, even those that are less fit or do not feel very motivated. Perhaps, more active and fitter individuals should aim for 10K, where we see maximum effects.”

The study looked at data from more than 78,000 people with an average age of 61 who walked daily while wearing wrist accelerometers. Each participant’s steps then were compared to whether they had developed dementia in the following seven years.

It is important to note that the study was observational, meaning it did not definitively establish that walking lowers dementia risk. However, the study authors did control for a host of other lifestyle variables ranging from poor diet to smoking and sleep issues.

In addition, other studies have suggested a link between increased physical activity and a reduced risk of dementia, as we note in “7 Lifestyle Changes That May Help Prevent Dementia.”

Chris Kissell

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