A study from UC San Diego’s Herbert Wertheim School of Public Health and Human Longevity Science found that older women who engaged in more daily walking and moderate to vigorous physical activity had a lower risk of developing mild cognitive impairment or dementia.

Among women aged 65 and older, every additional 31 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity per day was associated with a 21 percent lower risk of cognitive decline, while every additional 1,865 daily steps resulted in a 33 percent lower risk.

The study, which used data from 1,277 women in two ancillary studies by the Women’s Health Initiative, highlights the importance of physical activity in reducing the risk of dementia.

The researchers recommend that older adults increase their daily steps and moderate-intensity activities to reduce their risk of cognitive impairment and dementia. More research is needed to include humans and larger, more diverse populations.

The research also found that a higher amount of prolonged sitting and sitting were not associated with a higher risk of mild cognitive impairment or dementia. The study used research-grade accelerometers worn by participants for up to seven days to accurately measure physical activity and sitting.

On average, the women took 3,216 steps, performed 276 minutes of light physical activity, 45.5 minutes of moderate to vigorous physical activity, and 10.5 hours of sitting per day.

Physical activity has been identified as one of the top three ways to reduce the risk of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, making prevention essential since there is no cure, explained senior author Andrea LaCroix, Ph.D., M.P.H. Encouraging older adults to increase their movement to at least moderate intensity and take more steps each day may help reduce the risk of cognitive decline. said author Steven Nguyen, Ph.D., M.P.H.

While the study focused on older women, more research is needed to include men and broader diverse populations to understand the broader impact of physical activity on cognitive health.

The study was funded by the National Institute on Aging, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, and other institutions.

What Is Mild Cognitive Impairment
Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is a condition in which a person experiences a decline in cognitive abilities that is more significant than would be expected for their age, but not severe enough to substantially interfere with daily activities.

In MCI, cognitive functions such as memory, attention, language, and problem-solving may be affected, but the person is still able to perform daily tasks independently. It’s important to note that not everyone who suffers from MCI progresses to dementia, and some may even experience an improvement in their cognitive abilities over time.

What is dementia?
Dementia is an umbrella term that describes a group of symptoms that affect cognitive functions such as memory, thinking, problem-solving, language, and perception. These symptoms are severe enough to interfere with daily activities and reduce a person’s ability to function independently, unlike MCI.

Dementia is typically caused by various diseases or injuries that affect the brain, with Alzheimer’s disease being the most common cause.