Walking and dementia in physically capable elderly men

JAMA. 2004 Sep 22;292(12):1447-53. doi: 10.1001/jama.292.12.1447.


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.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Dementia / epidemiology*
  • Health Behavior*
  • Humans
  • Life Style
  • Male
  • Proportional Hazards Models
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk
  • Walking*