Walking to ward off Alzheimer's

Researchers say the way a person walks can show if they are in the early stages of dementia or Alzheimer's a lot sooner than the first mental signs can. / From file

A new study shows that something as simple as the way you walk can tell a lot more about a person than ever thought before.

"They're finding that there's a slowed or deliberate walk with people with early-onset Alzheimer's and that they can detect the Alzheimer's just by their gait before other signs are noticeable," said Connie Houseman, a Clinical Psych Instructor at Darton.

Those with a slow walk or something experts call the shuffle effect could be showing the first signs of Alzheimer's - but the same activity can help fight against the deadly disease.

"Walking seems to increase the size of the hippocampus and this is something that seems to become smaller as the Alzheimer's progresses," said Houseman.

Researchers say you can increase the hippocampus by up to 2% just by lacing up your sneakers and with 1 in 8 people being affected over the age of 65, it's important to fight back and many are reaping the rewards of this seemingly ordinary activity.

"It just helps you overall, it just makes you feel better, like you're accomplishing something," said Frank Settles, who walks the mall with his wife five times a week.

"I just feel better. Mentally and physically I feel better," said Ruth Settles, Frank's wife.

Fellow mall walker, Faye Christiansen agrees.

"I'm a believer of walking, I didn't used to like to walk but now I do. I look forward to it."

Those who walk say it's an added bonus to an activity they already enjoy and people should take advantage of an act that can prevent such a growing disease.

"I think everybody should do what they can to fight against it. A lot of older people, even younger people, are getting it," said Christiansen.

Experts say the earlier in life you show signs of Alzheimer's, the more rapidly it progresses so it's important to catch it early so doctors can do all they can to slow it down.

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