Health benefits of walking

Two large studies, one focusing on women and the other on men, found that elderly people who walk are more likely to maintain cognitive function.

And the more they walk, the better, according to the studies in today's Journal of the American Medical Association.

The study of &to=http:// 19/94/379/13038_womenDrink.html ' target=_blank>women looked at more than 16,000 participants, ages 70 to 81, in the Nurses' Health Study. It found those who regularly reported engaging in physical activity, even walking a mere 1 1/2 hours a week, had a higher level of cognitive function and less cognitive decline after 10 years, informs Arizona Republic News.

According to the Science Daily, the study was comprised of 2,257 physically-capable, nonsmoking &to=http:// ' target=_blank>Japanese-American men between the ages of 71 and 93 who were already participating in the Honolulu-Asia Aging Study, launched in the early 1990's as part of the Honolulu Heart Study.

Distance walked per day was assessed from 1991 to 1993. The men were then neurologically assessed for dementia in two follow-up examinations between 1994 and 1999. During follow-up, 158 cases of dementia were identified. After adjusting for age, men who walked less than a quarter mile per day experienced a 1.8 fold excess of dementia compared with men who walked over two miles per day.

"This finding is probably related to a lifetime of behavior," Abbott said. "Nevertheless, we continue to hear reports about the health benefits of walking, especially in terms of lowering the risk of heart disease and cancer. If I were sedentary, regardless of age, the finding that regular walking could have effects on late-life cognition is an additional reason to become more physically active.

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