Increasing Steps Per Day May Reduce Risk of Dementia

Taking approximately 10,000 steps per day may lower the risk of dementia, with steps taken at a higher intensity resulting in a stronger association, according to a recent study.

The researchers sought an association between step count and dementia incidence as they believed step-based recommendations may be appropriate in preventing dementia and could be part of dementia-prevention guidelines for clinicians.

To examine the association between step count per day and dementia, the researchers used data from UK Biobank, looking at a population-based cohort study from February 2013 to December 2015. Data analysis was conducted in May 2022 after 6.9 years of following up with participants (n = 78,430). Adults in the study were aged 40 to 79 years and valid wrist accelerometer data were included.

Over the years of follow-up, 866 participants developed dementia (mean [SD] age, 68.3 [5.6] years; 480 [55.4%] male and 386 [54.6%] female). Further analyses revealed nonlinear associations between daily steps. Overall, the researchers found an optimal amount of steps to be 9826 (hazard ratio [HR], 0.49; 95% CI, 0.39 – 0.62) with a minimal recommendation of 3826 steps (HR, 0.75; 95% CI, 0.67 – 0.83).

Additionally, the researchers calculated the recommended amount of steps at less than 40 steps per minute (incidental steps), at 40 steps per minute or more (purposeful steps), and peak 30-minute cadence (mean steps per minute recorded for the 30 highest—does not need to be consecutive—minutes per day). Based on the data, the recommended incidental cadence was 3677 steps (HR, 0.58; 95% CI, 0.44 – 0.72), an optimal purposeful cadence of 6315 steps (HR, 0.43; 95% CI, 0.32 – 0.58), and an optimal peak 30-minute cadence of 112 steps per minute (HR, 0.38; 95% CI, 0.24 – 0.60).

“Taking more steps per day was associated with a lower risk of incident all-cause dementia. The optimal dose was estimated at 9800 steps per day, just under the popular target of 10,000 steps. Intensity of stepping resulted in stronger associations,” the researchers concluded. “Future guidelines for dementia prevention may capitalize on the results of this study to promote step-based recommendations.”


—Jessica Ganga


del Pozo Cruz B, Ahmadi M, Naismith SL, Stamatakis E. Association of daily step count and intensity with incident dementia in 78,430 adults living in the UK. JAMA Neurol. 2022;79(10):1059-1063. doi:10.1001/jamaneurol.2022.2672.