By Dr. Anthony Policastro

We know that exercise is beneficial in many ways. That is especially true for things like cardiac disease. For example we already know that an average of 6,000 to 8,000 steps per day results in lower mortality from all causes. However, ongoing research continues to point out additional benefits.

A study was recently published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Neurology on Sept. 6, 2022. They looked at the role that activity level plays in dementia.

They looked at 78,430 adults with an average age of 61 years. They followed them for about seven years. During that time 866 of the subjects were diagnosed with dementia.

They then compared level of activity in the group who were diagnosed with dementia to those who remained symptom free. Each individual wore a device on their wrist to record steps. This is not a lot different than measuring the steps from the cell phones that we all carry.

One of their findings was that an average of 3,800 steps per day cut the risk by 50 percent. As the number of steps increased so did the risk reduction. There was no additional benefit once the average number of steps per day exceeded 9,800 steps. Another finding was that the intensity of the exercise had additional benefit. 

The one caution that the authors did express was related to the young average age of the participants. It was not clear if the effects would have been different if the population was older. It is possible that in the older population it was too late to have that large an effect from number of steps.

Therefore, the study suggests that younger individuals are the ones who would clearly benefit from an exercise program. The benefits might still be there for older individuals. However, that was not really part of the study.

There have been other studies that have looked at exercise in older individuals as it relates to dementia. They have also suggested a relationship. 

However, unlike the 78,000 plus subjects in this study, they had much smaller numbers. For that reason, the sheer size of this study adds more evidence that exercise is a good thing for prevention of dementia.

The benefits of exercise are clear. There have been numerous clinical studies suggesting that. Many of them center around the cardiovascular benefits. We can now add development of dementia to the list of reasons for exercising.

COVID update- The number of new cases remained steady this week. Nationally we went from 301,000 last week to 295,000 this week. In Sussex County, we went from 190 last week to 189 this week. There is no evidence of a new surge at this point. That means that this is a good time to get the booster dose of the vaccine.