By walking more than 4,000 steps a day, adults aged 60 and older can improve both attention and mental skills, according to a study in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease (2017; doi:10.3233/JAD-170586).

University of California, Los Angeles, researchers examined the relationship between physical activity and cognitive function in nondemented older adults with memory issues. For 2 years, researchers tracked the number of daily steps taken by 26 older adults and conducted neuropsychological tests and MRI scans to measure thickness of brain ­structures.

Data analysis revealed that those who walked more than 4,000 steps per day had a thicker hippocampus and surrounding regions and had higher performance in attention and information-processing speed and executive function. The hippocampus region of the brain is primarily associated with memory and spatial navigation. Prabha Siddarth, PhD, lead study author and biostatistician at the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA, said, “Brain thickness, a more sensitive measure than volume, can track subtle changes in the brain earlier than volume and can independently predict cognition.” People who walked less than 4,000 steps per day had thinner brain structures and lower cognitive functioning.

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Shirley Archer, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, is an internationally acknowledged integrative health and mindfulness specialist, best-selling author of 16 fitness and wellness books translated into multiple languages and sold worldwide, award-winning health journalist, contributing editor to Fitness Journal, media spokesperson, and IDEA's 2008 Fitness Instructor of the Year. She's a 25-year industry veteran and former health and fitness educator at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, who has served on multiple industry committees and co-authored trade books and manuals for ACE, ACSM and YMCA of the USA. She has appeared on TV worldwide and was a featured trainer on America's Next Top Model.

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