Image of senior woman walking outdoors

The more senior women engage in physical activity that’s at least moderately intense, the lower their odds of developing mild cognitive impairment or dementia, a new study finds. For each additional 31 minutes per day of moderate-to-vigorous activity, there is 21% lower risk, investigators say.

Data came from the Women’s Health Initiative, and included 1,277 participants with an average age of 82. Accelerometers were used to measure activity levels over seven days.

More steps a plus

Over an average follow-up of about four years, 267 cases of MCI/probable dementia were found in the participant group. Moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, particularly walking, was linked to a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias. Risk was 33% lower with each additional 1,865 daily steps, investigators found. In comparison, light-intensity physical activity and sitting were not tied to decreased risk.

The results suggest that senior women must maintain a moderate level of activity, or boost the intensity of their lighter activities to reduce the risk of cognitive decline and dementia, the researchers said. The findings may be particularly useful because wearable devices are increasingly worn by the public and could be readily adopted, the researchers proposed.

Encourage seniors

“Physical activity has been identified as one of the three most promising ways to reduce risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease,” said Andrea LaCroix, PhD, MPH, of the University of California, San Diego. “Prevention is important because once dementia is diagnosed, it is very difficult to slow or reverse. There is no cure.”

“Older adults can be encouraged to increase movement of at least moderate intensity and take more steps each day for a lower risk of mild cognitive impairment and dementia,” added Steve Nguyen, PhD, MPH. Moderate-to-vigorous physical activity could include brisk walking.

The study was published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia.

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