RSNA: Walking May Reduce Cognitive Decline

Walking sufficient miles weekly may protect brains of those with, without cognitive impairment

MONDAY, Nov. 29 (HealthDay News) -- Walking appears to slow cognitive decline in healthy individuals as well as those with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) or Alzheimer's disease, according to a study presented at the annual meeting of the Radiological Society of North America, held from Nov. 28 to Dec. 3 in Chicago.

Cyrus Raji, Ph.D., of the University of Pittsburgh, and colleagues evaluated whether physical activity altered brain structure in 426 individuals, including 299 healthy adults (mean age, 78 years), and 127 cognitively impaired adults (mean age, 81 years; 83 adults with MCI and 44 adults with Alzheimer's disease).

The investigators found that higher levels of physical activity (number of blocks walked) were associated with greater volume in several areas of the brain nine years later: frontal, occipital, temporal, entorhinal, and hippocampal regions. Individuals with MCI or Alzheimer's disease needed to walk at least 58 city blocks per week to maintain brain volume and to slow cognitive decline. Healthy individuals needed to walk at least 72 city blocks per week to maintain brain volume and significantly reduce the risk for cognitive decline. Mini-mental state exam scores decreased by an average of five points in cognitively impaired patients who did not engage in a sufficient level of physical activity over five years, compared with a decrease of only one point in individuals who engaged in sufficient physical activity.

"We found that walking five miles per week protects the brain structure over 10 years in people with Alzheimer's and MCI, especially in areas of the brain's key memory and learning centers," Raji said in a statement. "We also found that these people had a slower decline in memory loss over five years."

Abstract No. SSA17
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