Walking has benefits for dementia

It is widely known that any physical exercise is good for body and mind.

Recent researches suggest that basic exercise, as simple as walking only a few times per week, has benefits which can stave off the effects of dementia. Even more recent research suggests that a progressive aerobic exercise might boost cognitive performance in elderly patients with mild sub-cortical ischemic vascular cognitive impairment (SIVCI).

As it is known physical exercise, including brisk walks, has numerous benefits. It helps to maintain healthy weight, strengthens your bones and muscles, improves blood pressure, cardiovascular health, and helps to clear your head, to name but a few. In the last few years researches have shown how walking might help to improve brain performance and even improve memory, particularly how walking might be beneficial for the elderly to reduce the brain damage caused by various forms of dementia.

Recent studies that looked particularly at vascular dementia suggest that regular exercise might improve the brain function and thinking skills. As The New York Times writes:

“The study’s findings suggest that walking a few times per week might alter the trajectory of the disease and improve the physical well-being of people who develop a common form of age-related memory loss that otherwise has few treatments.”


The study looked at vascular cognitive impairment:

“Vascular cognitive impairment (VCI) results from cerebrovascular disease, and worldwide, it is the second most common type of cognitive dysfunction. While targeted aerobic training is a promising approach to delay the progression of VCI by reducing cardiometabolic risk factors, few randomised controlled trials to date have specifically assessed the efficacy of aerobic training on cognitive and brain outcomes in this group at risk for functional decline.”

Vascular cognitive impairment is the second most common form of dementia after the Alzheimer’s disease and it arises when blood vessels become damaged and the blood supply to the brain is obstructed. This condition is often associated with high blood pressure and heart disease. Past brain scan studies on vascular cognitive impairment have shown that there is more neural activity in parts of brains that are “involved with memory, decision-making and attention”, which indicates that “brains had to work harder during normal thinking than healthier brains did”.

The above mentioned study published in April, 2017, in The British Journal of Sports Medicine found that:

“Aerobic training among older adults with mild SIVCI can improve executive functions and neural efficiency of associated brain areas.”

The results of this study are truly encouraging, and show that something as easily accessible as walking can make a noticeable difference in your brain health.

Next time when you reach for car keys, maybe pick up your walking shoes instead and enjoy the many long-term benefits that walking has to offer.


Baiba Šustere

Baiba Šustere is a staff writer and wellness expert for My Good Planet. Specialising in mindfulness, health and wellbeing, Baiba's work has inspired and touched many of our readers over the course of her time with us. Her time studying to become a Yoga teacher in India gave her a unique perspective on life; one which she generously shares with us regularly.