Senior couple walking on mountain meadow trail - Walking for Dementia

The Walk of Life

“The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep.”
– Robert Frost

For most of our lives we have heard people tell us to walk for our health. Walking allows us not only exercise for our bodies, but also exercise for our minds, and peace for our souls. There is a lot of information available showing that not only can walking help prevent dementia, it can slow the progression after diagnosis. For those already diagnosed with dementia, it is important to remember the overall health and cognitive benefits of walking.

Scientists who study aging have long tracked older adults’ declines in cognitive abilities and walking speed as separate indicators of potential risk of developing dementias such as Alzheimer’s disease. But a recent study led by NIA Intramural Research Program (IRP) scientists showed that a combined decline in memory and walking speed were a bright, flashing warning light of increased risk for dementia. Additionally, the study went on to note that they found people who showed parallel declines in walking speed and memory had an overall six times higher risk of dementia than those with no drop-offs in memory recall or walking speed test performance. They also had reduced risk of developing cancer and cardiovascular disease. Essentially, walking briskly for even just a few thousand steps can improve health outcomes.

Did you know that walking 10,000 steps a day (approximately 5 miles) may cut dementia risk in half. A faster pace, even with fewer steps, may also offer brain benefits. And, walking just 4,000 steps daily can reduce dementia risk by 25%.

We know that aerobic activity is important for muscle strength, a healthy heart and to give your lungs a workout (see our blogpost on senior fitness books). Scientists are discovering another fascinating way something as simple as walking can improve your health: by increasing blood flow to your brain, which may, in turn, lower your risk for dementia.

Senior Man Walking - Benefits of Walking for Dementia

Walking On Your Dementia Journey

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” – Lao Tzu

A dementia diagnosis for yourself or a loved one brings with it some fear, some apprehension and a lot of unknowns. How quickly will the disease progress? What traits will remain of the person you once were? It is the beginning of a new journey… a new walk.

For those already experiencing memory problems, walking may not be a magic potion or a quick fix. However, walking for about a half an hour several days a week has shown those with dementia have improved scores on thinking tests that look at memory and concentration. We all want what is best for ourselves and our loved ones. Taking yourself on a walk, or joining your family member on a walk, several days a week may prolong health and increase good days. It will likely also decrease blood pressure, provide a positive social connection and improve overall happiness.

And remember…short bursts of moderate to intense activity – just six or seven minutes a day – can benefit memory and mental processes like planning and organizing.

In our blogpost, The Road Less Traveled Living With Dementia, we discuss finding hope in new beginnings while living with dementia.

If you feel that a loved one might be experiencing the early signs of dementia, we encourage you to reach out to the team at Aging at 5280. We are here to assist with your family transitions creating a roadmap to aging successfully and face change with certainty.

We hope you’ve found this information inspiring and a gentle reminder that senior fitness is just as important for the brain as it is for the body.

Spring is just around the corner and the perfect time of year to get outside and walk. We encourage each of you to lace up your shoes and begin your journey. We’ll see you out there!

Sources: Daily Step Count and Dementia | Reasons to Walk More | National Institute on Aging

If you, a family member or friends are in need of support for healthy aging, contact us, we are here to guide you in navigating your roadmap to aging well.

Cindy Koch

Cindy Koch, MA

Certified Placement & Referral Specialist (CPRS) | Owner

Aging at 5280 is here to help elders and their families navigate through the healthcare system and customize a plan to meet their needs.