walking close-up on sneakers

Step To It

As we step into Alzheimer’s Awareness Month, I want to take a moment of appreciation for all those that have been participating in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s in the past few months and upcoming weeks. It’s impressive to see so many people coming together in awareness of the disease. We all share the same vision – a world without dementia.

By now we’ve all heard about the great health benefits of walking. Exercise is critical to cognitive function. Blood flow to the brain is absolutely essential to keep our brains working.

At Marama, walks are part of our daily routine. Walking with others is a great way to maintain community, connection and a chance to practice some dual-task exercises that engage both cognitive and physical exercise for efficient recovery of the brain. 

👣Start Stepping Today

A study published in JAMA Neurology found that as little as 3800 steps a day reduced the risk of dementia by 25%. Increasing that amount and increasing the intensity reduces the risk even further.

Walking may not be easy for those already suffering from Alzheimer’s. A recent article in Medical News Today mentions how the disease’s effects on the hippocampus can cause issues with visuospatial navigation. This could increase gait issues and fall risks.

The same article focuses on recent findings that suggest walking tests could be used to aid in the detection of Alzheimer’s. The study utilized virtual reality googles and found that those with Alzheimer’s had difficulty turning when walking. As I noted in the article, more studies need to be done, but it is promising to see that there could be an easily administered clinical tool for identifying Alzheimer’s patients.

Other studies that look at walking as an indicator of dementia found that those who had a slowed gait speed had a higher risk of developing the disease. When combining a slowed gait with cognitive decline the risk increases even more.

If you are caregiving for someone with Alzheimer’s and dementia here are ways to support their steps and reduce risks from the Alzheimer’s Society:

  • Create a safe space to walk at home. 
  • Find a local service, group or organization that helps people with dementia take part in activities, including walking.
  • See if there are local volunteer organizations in your area that help people with dementia to return home. 
  • Support the person’s desire to walk where possible. 
  • Make sure the person carries some identification or the name and phone number of someone who can be contacted if they get lost. 
  • Save emergency contacts if the person uses a mobile phone.
  • Consider using tracking technology. 
  • Get support from the community, consider sensitively telling local shops and neighbors that the person has dementia. 
  • Inform the people involved in their care. 

As the research points out and those who participate in the Walk to End Alzheimer’s demonstrate, the power of walking extends beyond the physical benefits – it symbolizes our determination to create a world free of dementia. Thank you for joining me on this path.

Dr. Heather Sandison

P.S. – CORRECTION: If you tried to purchase special discounted tickets from last week’s email to the End Well Symposium at the Skirball in Los Angeles, California on November 16, here is the correct link. I hope to see you at this transformative movement reimagining aging and the end-of-life experience. We’re thrilled to converge at the heart of meaningful discussions on advanced aging, serious illness, death care, and grief.