two women walking on treadmills

Walking This Many Steps a Day Can Protect Brain From Alzheimer’s, Says Study

By | July 17th, 2019

How much walking does it take to keep your brain resilient against Alzheimer’s? Researchers have discovered the ideal amount of daily moderate exercise needed to protect the brain against tissue loss and cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s disease, according to a study published in the journal JAMA Neurology.

The study, conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital, saw brain health benefits in people who exercised modestly, but saw the highest results in those who walked 8,900 steps per day. That’s just under the 10,000 step goal many people aim for, and amounts to walking roughly 4.5 miles daily.

The study is among the first to prove the protective effects of exercise on the brain in people with high levels of beta-amyloid plaques but no symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.

Beta-amyloid plaques, a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease, are abnormal proteins in the brain that show up decades before the disease shows any symptoms. This is called the “preclinical” stage of Alzheimer’s disease.

Because there is no treatment for Alzheimer’s disease, researchers are eager to identify ways to intervene during this early stage of the disease to prevent symptoms from ever emerging.

Related: An Amyloid Pet Scan Can Detect Alzheimer’s—But It’s Not Covered By Insurance

“One of the most striking findings from our study was that greater physical activity not only appeared to have positive effects on slowing cognitive decline, but also on slowing the rate of brain tissue loss over time in normal people who had high levels of amyloid plaque in the brain,” says Jasmeer Chhatwal, MD, PhD of the MGH Department of Neurology, and corresponding author of the study.

This study suggests that higher levels of daily moderate exercise may reduce cortical thinning from beta-amyloid plaques and preserve gray matter in areas of the brain that are associated with memory loss and Alzheimer’s-related neurodegeneration. Walking is an activity most people can do, as it is low-impact and requires no special equipment.

For the study, researchers used pedometers to track the physical activity of 182 healthy older adults, including those with high levels of beta-amyloid and considered at high risk of Alzheimer’s.

According to co-author Reisa Sperling, MD, director of the Center for Alzheimer’s Research and Treatment, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital and co-principal investigator of the Harvard Aging Brain Study, lifestyle interventions, like walking, that target cardiovascular health (heart, blood vessels, arteries, and veins) are especially important because they may offer additional protection against Alzheimer’s and delay progression of the disease.

Read Next: To Slow Down Alzheimer’s, Treatment Must Start Decades Before Symptoms

If you find our articles and interviews helpful, please consider becoming a supporting member of our community. Frustrated by the lack of an editorially independent source of information on brain health and Alzheimer’s disease, we decided to create Being Patient. We are a team of dedicated journalists covering the latest research on Alzheimer’s, bringing you access to the experts and elevating the patient perspective on what it’s like to live with dementia.

Please help support our mission.

4 thoughts on “Walking This Many Steps a Day Can Protect Brain From Alzheimer’s, Says Study

  1. I have the early onset gene for Alzheimer’s disease, and I have a significant amount of amyloid plaques in my brain. I bought an elliptical machine a few weeks ago. I am currently doing 5 miles in 20 minutes.

  2. People often get worried about developing Alzheimer’s disease or an associated dementia disorder as they grow older. The prevalence of Alzheimer disease (AD) among Americans above 65 years of age is reported to be around 5.5 million. the most promising interventions for preventing Alzheimer’s disease include:
    Physical activity
    Controlling hypertension
    Cognitive training
    Healthy diet
    Thanks for providing such a great content loaded with fruitful information

Leave a Reply

We are glad you have chosen to leave a comment. Please keep in mind that comments are moderated according to our comment policy.