The promotion of a healthy lifestyle includes a balanced diet and regular physical activities, and 10,000 steps a day is a similar push toward managing an active lifestyle. The use of smartphones and smartwatches has made it easier to count steps while walking. Regular brisk walking helps maintain a healthy weight and reduce the risk of cardiovascular diseases. Moreover, there is growing evidence that regular physical exercise such as walking every day not only benefits general health but is also effective in reducing the risk of developing dementia.

According to a September 2022 study by Pozo Cruz and colleagues, published in JAMA Neurology, an active lifestyle that includes a higher number of steps results in a lower risk of all-cause dementia. This was a large UK Biobank prospective cohort study from 2013–15 that examined the 40–79-year-old population. The health activity of 78,000 people was followed for seven years, and valid wrist accelerometers were used to monitor daily activity. Dementia records were obtained from the national registry.

The results found that regular walking was associated with a lower incidence of dementia, with optimal walking of 9,826 steps reducing the risk by half (hazard ratio of 0.49; 95% confidence interval, 0.39–0.62). Moreover, a number of steps at higher intensity provided much stronger benefits. There was no minimum threshold of steps needed either for the beneficial effect, as even 3,800 steps a day was associated with a 25% lower incidence of dementia. 

Dementia is a significant health burden in the UK. GlobalData epidemiologists forecast that diagnosed prevalent cases of Alzheimer’s disease (AD), a type of dementia, will be 315,000 in the UK this year, increasing to 360,000 in 2028. The increase in the number of AD cases can be attributed to the projected increase in the elderly population in the UK during the forecast period, as well as the high prevalence of associated conditions, combined with a sedentary lifestyle.

Dementia is an irreversible, neurodegenerative brain disease in the elderly population. It is characterised by the death of brain cells, which leads to a progressive decline in memory and cognitive abilities, including thinking, language and learning capacity. Due to the disease’s progressive nature, an increase in the elderly population will, in turn, increase the number of people living with dementia. This will have a considerable impact on the healthcare systems in the respective countries.

The number of elderly persons surviving to the age of 80 years or older is expected to increase dramatically as advances in medicine and medical technologies increase life expectancy. This will have a considerable impact on the healthcare system, individuals, families, caregivers and wider society. Research suggests that the management of dementia faces critical challenges for resources, funding and prioritisation by governments. Consequently, it is important to focus on preventive strategies and health promotion. Encouraging an active lifestyle such as regular walking of 5,000–10,000 steps a day requires minimal planning and investment and this needs to be actively promoted in society.

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