Context: Evidence suggests that physical activity may be related to the clinical expression of dementia. Whether the association includes low-intensity activity such as walking is not known.
Objective: To examine the association between walking and future risk of dementia in older men.
Design: Prospective cohort study.
Setting and participants: Distance walked per day was assessed from 1991 to 1993 in 2257 physically capable men aged 71 to 93 years in the Honolulu-Asia Aging Study. Follow-up for incident dementia was based on neurological assessment at 2 repeat examinations (1994-1996 and 1997-1999).
Main outcome measures: Overall dementia, Alzheimer disease, and vascular dementia.
Results: During the course of follow-up, 158 cases of dementia were identified (15.6/1000 person-years). After adjusting for age, men who walked the least (<0.25 mile/d) experienced a 1.8-fold excess risk of dementia compared with those who walked more than 2 mile/d (17.8 vs 10.3/1000 person-years; relative hazard [RH], 1.77; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.04-3.01). Compared with men who walked the most (>2 mile/d), an excess risk of dementia was also observed in those who walked 0.25 to 1 mile/d (17.6 vs 10.3/1000 person-years; RH, 1.71; 95% CI, 1.02-2.86). These associations persisted after accounting for other factors, including the possibility that limited amounts of walking could be the result of a decline in physical function due to preclinical dementia.
Conclusions: Findings suggest that walking is associated with a reduced risk of dementia. Promoting active lifestyles in physically capable men could help late-life cognitive function.