Does Walking Help Lower Dementia Risk?

There is currently no cure for dementia, but there is mounting evidence that walking not only boosts your overall health but can also reduce your risk of dementia by half, according to a new study.

What Is Dementia?

Dementia is an umbrella term that covers a broader range of conditions associated with loss of memory, language, problem-solving and other thinking abilities that worsen over time and impair a person's daily life and independent function. It also affects behavior, feelings and relationships.

Alzheimer's disease is the most common cause of dementia, accounting for 60% to 80% of cases. Dementia and Alzheimer's disease (often referred to as "senility" or "senile dementia") are not a normal part of aging. Normal brain aging may mean having slower processing speeds and more trouble multitasking, but routine memory, skills and knowledge are stable and may even improve with age. That is why it helps to learn about modifiable risk factors for Alzheimer's disease and related dementias. Modifiable risk factors are lifestyle and behaviors that can reduce or increase a person's chances of developing a disease. 

How Walking Lowers Risk of Dementia

A healthy body has always been associated with having an active lifestyle, but a new study suggests that physical activity, such as brisk walking or power walking, is not just good for the body but for the brain too.

According to a study published in JAMA Neurology, older adults between the ages of 40 and 79 who took 9,826 steps per day (about five miles) were 50% less likely to develop dementia within seven years. Meanwhile, people who walked about 3,800 steps (about two miles) per day still had a 25% reduced risk of mental decline. It shows that the higher the number of steps per day, the better it is for your brain health.

Physical activity impacts the brain in many ways, including better sleep and reduced inflammation and feelings of anxiety, which may play a role in the development of dementia over time. It also improves the brain structure responsible for thinking, language and memory.

Faster pace means more brain benefits

Additionally, people who walk with purpose or focus on their walking pace rather than the distance walked or the number of steps per day could lower their risk of dementia by 57% with just 6,315 steps daily. Purposeful steps refer to walking at over 40 steps a minute.

Wearable fitness trackers or mobile health apps can help you track your steps and physical activity. But if you do not have a step counter, you can count the number of steps you take in 10 seconds and multiply it by six—or the number of steps you take in six seconds and multiply it by 10.


Older adults should move as much as they can throughout the day and aim for at least 150 minutes a week of combined moderate-intensity physical activity and strength training, according to the AARP's Global Council on Brain Health. People with certain heart or respiratory conditions should check with their doctor before starting an exercise program.


Alzheimer's Association
American Association of Retired Persons
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
JAMA Network
Medical News Today

Sign Up for Health Tips

Get our advice and upcoming events about weight, pain, heart and more.

Take a Health Risk Assessment

Our health assessments can help you identify issues and areas to discuss with your doctor.