This Prenatal Exercise Could Cut Your Dementia Risk in Half

This simple doctor-recommended exercise requires no equipment but offers big benefits.
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Assistant Editor
October 11, 2022
pregnant woman walking in the park on a sunny day
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For many moms, some anxiety can crop up around what workout routines and activities they can keep integrated into their life during their pregnancy. While some exercises like rollerblading, skiing and horseback riding may be off-limits, others lend themselves perfectly to your prenatal needs and provide big benefits before, during and after baby is born.

A new report published in the JAMA Neurology journal suggests that walking 10,000 steps a day can cut the risk of dementia in half. For those who can’t walk so far (second and third-trimester moms with swollen ankles, we hear you), just 4,000 daily steps can reduce dementia risk by a quarter.

The study, which surveyed the exercise habits of over 78,000 adults, also revealed that half an hour of walking at a brisk pace was associated with a 62 percent decline in the risk of dementia. In fact, participants who walked briskly, about 80 to 100 steps a minute, even for short periods, had a 30 percent lower risk of developing dementia compared to people who walked roughly the same amount at a slower pace.

Why does the simple act of walking have such a big impact on dementia risk? Scientists aren’t sure, but they believe it might have to do with blood flow and cardiovascular health. “Walking is associated with better vascular profiles, which is probably the clearest pathway through which steps may benefit dementia,” the study’s first author, Borja del Pozo Cruz, shared with TODAY. Thus, it’s “likely that vascular dementia is the most preventable through physical activity.”

Outside of lowering the risk of dementia, walking briskly, even for a few thousand steps–say, around the house or down the street—also reduces the risk of developing cancer and cardiovascular disease. Another study has also suggested that walking after a miscarriage may even increase your odds of getting pregnant.

“I recommend walking to most of my patients who are pregnant,” Tanya Ghatan, MD, an ob-gyn at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston told The Bump. “It’s easy entry for women who’ve never exercised and gives athletic women a way to stay active and maintain a sense of control without the high impact of other activities they’ve participated in.”

If you want to start a walking plan that works for your pregnancy, check out this three-tiered program that makes establishing a routine simple. Ghatan says that regardless of your fitness level, keep in mind that it’s not only fine, it’s also wise to swap days or shorten workouts according to how you feel. Also, don’t forget to consult your doctor before starting any new exercise program.

Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.

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