Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Pitt Researcher: Walking Helps the Brain

A study published today shows seniors who walk as little at one mile a day can prevent brain mass loss and slow the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Study author Kirk Erickson says his study piggybacked on a study looking at cardiovascular health. That study looked at the walking habits of people in their 60’s. Nine years later Erickson measured the participants’ gray matter volume and found that those who walked six to nine miles a week had a slower rate of loss than those who did not regularly exercise. He then looked at the onset of Alzheimer’s disease 13 years out and again found that those who regularly walked were less likely to suffer from Alzheimer’s. The University of Pittsburgh Professor of psychology says there is no magic to 6-9 miles and there is no reason to believe that walking is better than any other cardiovascular activity. However he notes that walking is something that nearly all seniors can do. “You don’t have to be a marathon runner to benefit,” says Erickson. walking more than nine miles a week did not have any additional benefit. According to the data. Erickson says it is never too early to begin an exercise regiment and the study shows that as far as brain health goes, it is also never to late to start. Of the 229 seniors studied, 116 developed cognitive impairment or dementia but those who walked regularly cut their risk of memory loss in half. Erickson says he would like to be able to do more studies of this type. In the future he hopes to look at how long the impact of a regular walking routine lasts after a senior stops walking and he hopes to use more accurate measurement tools that have recently become available.

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