Walking 4,000 steps each day can improve brain health, according to University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) experts on aging who recently published research results on exercise in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Studies have demonstrated that exercise can help inhibit cognitive decline and dementia in older individuals, who find themselves forgetting information or processing it with more difficulty than in younger days, according to a university release.
Experts measure brain health through its volume and thickness, utilizing neuroimaging equipment. Previous research has shown that the level of physical activity in an individual is directly proportional to the volume of the hippocampus, the brain’s memory center. the release said.
“Few studies have looked at how physical activity affects the thickness of brain structures,” Prabha Siddarth, the study’s first author and a biostatistician at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA, said in the release. “Brain thickness, a more sensitive measure than volume, can track subtle changes in the brain earlier than volume and can independently predict cognition, so this is an important question.”
Siddarth and her colleagues tracked 29 people age 60 and older who have memory impairment, measuring their activity levels, calculating the average number of steps taken daily and implementing tests of mental acuity. Those who walked over 4,000 steps exhibited greater hippocampus volumes than those walking fewer steps, the release said.
Future work will duplicate this study with longer time periods and to determine the causes of hippocampus thinning, according to the university.