Time and time again, studies have shown that you don't have to be a pro athlete to reap the mind-and-body benefits of exercise. Simply walking has been found to boost heart health, increase circulation, and treat lower back pain — and a recent study even found that weekend-only workouts might be as just beneficial as daily exercise. And now, "amateur" exercisers have yet another reason to celebrate, because according to a November 2016 study, walking just three times a week is linked to a decreased risk of developing dementia.
In the study, researchers analyzed blood samples from more than 1,600 participants age 65 and older for the presence of the apolipoprotein E (APOE) gene, aka the gene that's thought to be a risk factor for dementia and Alzheimer's. At the outset of the study, no participants showed any signs of cognitive impairment.
Five years later, the researchers followed up with the participants and found that 331 of them had developed dementia since the initial meeting. Their analysis showed that participants who had the APOE gene were two times more likely to get dementia, which makes sense — but it also showed that participants who didn't exercise frequently had two times the risk of developing dementia, as well. Put simply: People who didn't exercise had the same exact risk of developing dementia as people with the APOE gene.
When asked about their exercise habits, the majority of the participants who were not diagnosed with dementia said they simply walked about three times a week. This might be a sign that a little exercise can go a long way when it comes to protecting your brain health — or that "You don't have to train like an Olympian to get the brain health benefits of being physically active," as study co-author Jennifer Heisz, PhD, assistant professor in the Department of Kinesiology at McMaster University, told The Huffington Post.
It's important to note that this study only shows a link between walking and dementia risk — not a cause-and-effect relationship. Plus, there's no evidence that walking is better for lowering dementia risk than, say, high-intensity interval training, or any other kind of exercise.
But even still, these findings are encouraging. Because walking three times a week is totally doable — especially when it might give your brain a boost.
[h/t The Huffington Post]