If you want to reduce your risk for dementia, you should slap on a step counter and start counting your steps. According to a new study, you’ll need between 3,800 and 9,800 daily to reduce your risk for mental decline.

The study found that people between the ages of 40 and 79 who took 9,826 steps per day were 50 percent less likely to develop dementia within seven years. Furthermore, people who walked with “purpose,” at a pace of over 40 steps a minute, could reduce their risk of dementia by 57 percent with just 6,315 steps daily.

“It is a brisk walking activity, like a power walk,” said study coauthor Borja del Pozo Cruz, an adjunct associate professor at the University of Southern Denmark in Odense, Denmark, and senior researcher in health sciences for the University of Cadiz in Spain.

The study found that even people who walked approximately 3,800 steps a day at any speed cut their risk of dementia by 25 percent. “That would be enough, at first, for sedentary individuals,” said del Pozo Cruz in an email to CNN.

“In fact, it is a message that doctors could use to motivate very sedentary older adults — 4k steps is very doable by many, even those that are less fit or do not feel very motivated,” he added. “Perhaps, more active and fitter individuals should aim for 10k, where we see maximum effects.”


But a more interesting result was buried in the study, according to an editorial entitled “Is 112 the New 10,000?” published Tuesday in JAMA Neurology. The study found that the most significant reduction in dementia risk, 62 percent, was achieved by people who walked at a brisk pace of 112 steps per minute for 30 minutes daily. Prior research has labeled 100 steps a minute (2.7 miles per hour) as a “brisk” or moderate level of intensity.

The editorial argued that individuals looking to reduce their risk of dementia focus on their walking pace over their walking distance. “While 112 steps/min is a rather brisk cadence, ‘112’ is conceivably a much more tractable and less intimidating number for most individuals than ‘10,000,’ especially if they have been physically inactive or underactive,” wrote Alzheimer’s researchers Ozioma Okonkwo and Elizabeth Planalp in the editorial. Okonkwo is an associate professor in the medicine department at the Wisconsin Alzheimer’s Disease Research Center at the University of Wisconsin–Madison; Planalp is a research scientist in Okonkwo’s lab.

del Pozo Cruz said, “We agree this is a very interesting finding. Our take is that intensity of stepping matters! Over and above volume. Technology could be used to track the number of steps and pace, so these metrics can also be incorporated in commercial watches. More research is needed on this.”

Don’t have a step counter? You can count the number of steps you take in 10 seconds and then multiply it by six, or the number of steps you take in six seconds and multiply it by 10. Either way works. But remember, not everyone’s steps are the same length, nor are their fitness levels. What might be a brisk pace for a 40-year-old may not be sustainable for a 70-year-old.

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