Public Imperative: Walking Six Miles Each Week Could Be a Neurology Marketing Concept to Fight Dementia with Brain Power

By Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer

Magic Number: Six Miles per Week

The results of a research study reported in the Journal Neurology suggest that adults who walk six to nine miles each week may benefit from improved memory and brain function in late adulthood. We could see physical activity programs emerge in neurology marketing.

The study involved about 300 people in Pittsburgh who tracked their weekly walking habits for researchers. Testing over a period of more than a dozen years showed that individuals who walked between six and nine miles each week had less age-related brain shrinkage than people who walked fewer miles.

The lead researcher, Kirk Erickson of the University of Pittsburgh, said in news reports: “Brain size shrinks in late adulthood, which can cause memory problems. Our results should encourage well-designed trials of physical exercise in older adults as a promising approach for preventing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.”

“If regular exercise in midlife could improve brain health and improve thinking and memory in later life, it would be one more reason to make regular exercise in people of all ages a public health imperative,” Erickson said.

Using MRI on 299 older adults, the authors examined the association between gray matter volume, physical activity, and cognitive impairment. Greater amounts of walking were associated with increased gray matter volume, an effect that may reduce the risk for dementia, according to the study.

Published reports said they studied volunteers who were free of dementia and who kept track of how much they walked. Nine years later, scientists took brain scans to measure their brain volume. After four more years, they tested to see if anyone in the study had cognitive impairment or dementia.

They found that people who walked roughly six to nine miles a week halved their risk of developing memory problems. They said more studies need to be done on the effects of exercise on dementia, but in the absence of any effective treatments for Alzheimer’s, walking may be one thing people can do that may help them down the road.

Ref: Erickson et al. Neurology 2010; 75: 1415-1422

Stewart Gandolf
Chief Executive Officer at Healthcare Success
Stewart Gandolf, MBA, is Chief Executive Officer of Healthcare Success, one of the nation's leading healthcare and digital marketing agencies. Over the past 20 years, Stewart has marketed and consulted for over 1,000 healthcare clients, ranging from practices and hospitals to multi-billion dollar corporations. A frequent speaker, Stewart has shared his expertise at over 200 venues nationwide. As an author and expert resource, Stewart has also written for many leading industry publications, including the 21,000 subscriber Healthcare Success Insight blog. Stewart also co-authored, "Cash-Pay Healthcare: Start, Grow & Perfect Your Cash-Pay Healthcare Business." Stewart began his career with leading advertising agencies, including J. Walter Thompson, where he marketed Fortune 500 clients such as Wells Fargo and Bally's Total Fitness.

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