Walking for as little as two-and-a-half hours a week can significantly improve memory and could even help delay the onset of dementia.
The finding emerged from an 18-month study, conducted by the University of Western Australia, of 170 men and women over age 50 who reported experiencing memory problems but did not meet the criteria for dementia. The volunteers were divided into two groups. One group continued with usual activities while the other group participated in a 24-week home-based physical activity program that encouraged participants to walk for 50 minutes, three times a week.
At the end of the six-month trial, participants in the exercise group scored better on cognitive and memory tests. Those results held steady when participants were retested six months later, and again after 12 months. The study was published September 3 in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
“We know that exercise is the one intervention that has the most powerful and consistent effect on the prevention of dementia and Alzheimer’s,” says William J. Evans, director of the Nutrition, Metabolism, and Exercise Laboratory with the Institute for Aging at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. “So get out there and start walking.”