© Radiological Society of North America
According to the results of a new study, walking five miles a week may help slow the cognitive decline associated with Alzheimer’s disease in adults. The study also suggests that walking could help those suffering from Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI), a condition that is similar to Alzheimer’s, yet not as severe.
This was a long, ongoing study that lasted twenty years. It consisted of a total of 426 people, including 299 healthy adults with an average age of 78, as well as 127 cognitively impaired adults with an average age of 81. The cognitively impaired group breaks down to 44 adults with Alzheimer’s disease and 83 adults with MCI.
During the 20-year study, Dr. Cyrus Raji from the Department of Radiology at the University of Pittsburgh in Pennsylvania analyzed the relationship between physical activity and brain structure for both groups of adults. Dr. Raji observed how far each of the patients walked every week.
After ten years, all the patients in the study underwent 3D MRI exams to get a better look at their brain volume. Brain volume is a vital sign of how healthy your brain is. When brain volume decreases, it means that brain cells are dying off. When brain volume remains high, it means that brain cells are not dying and optimal brain health is maintained.
In addition to identifying changes in brain volume via 3D MRI scans, researchers also gave patients mini-mental state exams (MMSE) to help track cognitive decline over the course of five years. Researchers then correlated physical activity levels with their MRI & MMSE results.
In every case, researchers found that the more physical activity patients did, the more brain volume they had. They came to the conclusion that cognitively impaired patients need to walk at least 5 miles a week, roughly 58 city blocks, to maintain brain volume and slow down further cognitive decline. Researchers added that healthy adults need to walk at least six miles a week, roughly 72 city blocks, to maintain brain volume and considerably reduce their chances of developing Alzheimer’s.
What We Can Learn From This Study
We’ve known for a long time that frequent exercise is important for health. But after reviewing the results of this new study, staying active and getting plenty of cardio exercise is more important than ever, especially for senior citizens. It’s not always easy, but try going for a walk at least once a day. Start off slow and work your way up to walking more and more.
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