Can Walking Really Reduce Your Risk for Dementia?

Dr Daniel Amen and Tana Amen BSN RN On The Brain Warrior's Way Podcast

Recent research suggests that being able to walk at just 3 miles an hour significantly raises the likelihood an 80-year old will live at least another ten years. Even for those much younger, making small adjustments in the way we get from point A to point B will result in substantial health benefits. Dr. Daniel Amen and Tana Amen provide additional insight into the way we exercise.


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Dr Daniel Amen: Welcome to the Brain Warrior's Way podcast. I'm Dr. Daniel Amen ...

Tana Amen: And I'm Tana Amen. Here we teach you how to win the fight for your brain, to defeat anxiety, depression, memory loss, ADHD, and addictions.

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Dr Daniel Amen: Welcome back. Today we're going to talk about walk like you're late. But before we get to that, we have this great review. "I am so glad to have found the Brain Warrior's Way podcast. I used to listen to Dr Amen's work and I've seen him speak live, but I just listened to five episodes back to back while doing something else that didn't require my full attention. So many reminders of simple choices that can make a big difference in my performance and life, business and as a parent. This is a podcast that I set to don't delete episodes I've already listened to, so I can go back and listen to them again and get more ideas to implement."

Tana Amen: Well, it's one of the things ...

Dr Daniel Amen: Thank you so much.

Tana Amen: ... we often say is that when you hear something repeatedly it becomes ... You're more likely to start taking it on. It's a message, what you hear on a regular basis is what you're likely to then begin to process. So it's really important. That's awesome.

Dr Daniel Amen: You're so smart, and so fricking cute. 12 years. 12 years. Am I crazy?

Tana Amen: 12 years. 12 and a half.

Dr Daniel Amen: All right. So a new study revealed that older adults with slower walking speeds are at an increased risk of developing dementia. Because there's currently no cure for dementia, it's important to know about the risk factors that may lead to developing it. So for example, researchers have learned that older adults with slower walking speeds, and the research was, if you're 80 years old and you can walk three miles an hour, you have a 90% chance you will live to 90. But if you're 80 years old and you can only walk a mile an hour, you have a 90% chance you will not live until 90. And initially, you said, "Well, why would we talk to you about this and not give people hope?"

Tana Amen: Well it's not why would we talk about it, we have to give them hope in the message though. We have to give them something they can do.

Dr Daniel Amen: Walk like you're late.

Tana Amen: 'Cause if you ... Well, hold on.

Dr Daniel Amen: Walk like you're late.

Tana Amen: My concern is that there are older people. I'm a nurse, okay. There are older people watching this who have trouble walking at that pace, I know this.

Dr Daniel Amen: I actually married you because you were a nurse.

Tana Amen: Yes.

Dr Daniel Amen: I never knew that. I would have dated more nurses, 'cause they like taking care of people.

Tana Amen: You know, I really don't need to know that. I don't need to know that. Anyways, there are elderly people out there who have trouble walking at that pace. They have got a walker, or they've got a hip problem.

Dr Daniel Amen: And we never want you to do something that will increase your risk for head injuries.

Tana Amen: And now you just made them feel terrible. Don't you feel terrible for that?

Dr Daniel Amen: Absolutely not.

Tana Amen: Well you should.

Dr Daniel Amen: 'Cause what I want you to do is don't be lazy when you walk.

Tana Amen: But ...

Dr Daniel Amen: So number one, I wear a Fitbit every day and since January 1st I've been better than ever.

Tana Amen: Okay. I'm sorry.

Dr Daniel Amen: So 10,000 steps for me. But what I notice is if I'm doing something else, if I'm on a phone call or whatever, I'm not as focused as I could be on moving it out.

Tana Amen: Okay. Now you need to stop. If it's a matter of priority and you're not doing it because you're doing something else, then yes, start focusing on it. If it's a matter of you're not walking faster because you just don't feel like it, then start to pick up the pace. But we never want you to do something that's going to hurt you. Okay? If you are ...

Dr Daniel Amen: Ever.

Tana Amen: We don't want you to start thinking you have to walk faster, but you can't because you've got a walker or a hurt hip or a hurt knee, and then all of a sudden you trip because you just told them to walk faster because they're going to get dementia. And now you fall, and you can't walk at all.

Dr Daniel Amen: That's sort of not the point.

Tana Amen: It was the point, that's what people hear.

Dr Daniel Amen: Okay. So going to the negative ...

Tana Amen: So do the best you can.

Dr Daniel Amen: Going to the negative ...

Tana Amen: With what you have.

Dr Daniel Amen: If you can't walk like you're late ...

Tana Amen: Thank you.

Dr Daniel Amen: You've got to do everything else right.

Tana Amen: And do the best you can. Right.

Dr Daniel Amen: But if you can, it's important to not stroll. And Aslan and I, our White Shepherd, he wants to sniff everything and stop every two seconds.

Tana Amen: He wants to smell the roses.

Dr Daniel Amen: He does. And that's not the point of the walk. The point of the walk is to stay healthy.

Tana Amen: He's trying to help you ...

Dr Daniel Amen: Torture you for a longer period of time.

Tana Amen: ... with your stress levels.

Dr Daniel Amen: I don't ever want to be a burden to my wife or to my children. And if that's you, then ... And, plus I never want to live with my children. I love them dearly, but I don't. I just don't.

Tana Amen: I completely understand.

Dr Daniel Amen: I just don't. And I know a lot of you listening, you don't want to live with your kids either.

Tana Amen: Although I kind of don't mind, with mine.

Dr Daniel Amen: Well, she's awesome. Got to take care of yourself. And one of the ways is consistent exercise. So we haven't talked about exercise in a long time. What are the things people should be thinking about as far as exercise on a weekly basis?

Tana Amen: So one thing, I know the new study's out now for heart health. And what's good for your heart is good for your brain, is 150 minutes of cardio. So that doesn't mean, not the high intensity where you can't breathe type, but just where your heart rate is up at a good level. So at a good pace. A lot like walking like you're late, or even a little bit faster than that. Okay. So if you're lifting weights, but you keep moving, so circuit training and that type of a thing. But 150 minutes a week, and they didn't really specify that it had to be for a certain amount of time at once. So if you can only get 20 minutes in one day and then you get 40 minutes in the next day. The point was to total 150 minutes a week.

So if you're going to do weights ... So sometimes I split mine up.

Dr Daniel Amen: So it's like for walking for almost an hour, three times a week.

Tana Amen: Right. Or so for me, like I like to do karate. So that's an hour that I do one day. And then the next day I might do my elliptical trainer for 20 minutes and lift weights for 25 minutes. And then the next day I might, you know, whatever. So I might go for a run with Chloe on the beach, but I try to get that 150 minutes in.

Dr Daniel Amen: Okay. So you also said weight training because ...

Tana Amen: Muscle.

Dr Daniel Amen: ... the stronger you are as you age ...

Tana Amen: Yes.

Dr Daniel Amen: ... the less likely you are to get Alzheimer's.

Tana Amen: And the planet does have your best interests at heart in this matter. You will begin to naturally decline in muscle mass as your hormones go down. But if you want to be healthy in older age, be less insulin resistance. If you want to have ... Your muscle is your protein storage, so if you do get hurt, if you do go in the hospital, that's basically your protein storage, your reserve. So you want to have more muscle mass on your body, otherwise you begin to atrophy and get sick faster.

Dr Daniel Amen: But what if you're a girl and you don't want to have big biceps?

Tana Amen: Yeah. Sadly that is rarely, that's very, very, very unlikely to happen unless you are just genetically a freak and blessed. So it's just not likely to happen.

Dr Daniel Amen: So you don't see it.

Tana Amen: I work ...

Dr Daniel Amen: Especially because women don't have high testosterone.

Tana Amen: Right. I had high testosterone and I still wasn't like huge. So it's really hard to get your muscles to be that big.

Dr Daniel Amen: Okay. So twice a week lifting weights?

Tana Amen: Yes, at least. Two to three times.

Dr Daniel Amen: Two to three times.

Tana Amen: And you don't have to do it for ever, like 20 to 30 minutes.

Dr Daniel Amen: And if you're going to walk like you're late, take four or five minutes during those 50 minutes or an hour and walk as fast as you can.

Tana Amen: Right.

Dr Daniel Amen: Right. It's called burst training, or high intensity training.

Tana Amen: And if you're worried about falling, you can get a treadmill with the rails on it. It's got safety features on it, you know where you're holding on and if you start to trip it shuts off.

Dr Daniel Amen: All right. So just like you said. Number one principle, always with exercise, is safety.

Tana Amen: Yes.

Dr Daniel Amen: Safety. But if you can walk like you're late ...

Tana Amen: Yes.

Dr Daniel Amen: ... burst and lift weights a couple of times a week, never more than you can. We are definitely not fans of the guy in the gym screaming at you, "You can do it, you can do it."

Tana Amen: I used to do that, yeah.

Dr Daniel Amen: Yeah. No, that's, no.

Tana Amen: But it was more just a lifestyle.

Dr Daniel Amen: We want to keep your muscles healthy.

Tana Amen: Yeah. So one thing I really like, especially as you get older, is this idea of, just like we like functional medicine, I like functional training. And what functional training means is you're focusing on doing movements that they're not so much for, to put you on the cover of Muscle and Fitness. Okay. It's functional training is a way of training that really enhances your movement as you get older. So when you do squats, do them safely, but the whole point is ... Okay, I'm a nurse, so I'm going to say this. It's to help you. If you can't squat down and sit on a toilet safely, you're likely to fall. Okay. If you can't move in certain ways, if your body doesn't function in certain ways, then you're going to end up having to have help as you get older, or you're going to get hurt. Right?

Dr Daniel Amen: Do you think they'd put me on the cover of Muscle and Fitness?

Tana Amen: Squatting so you could sit on a toilet?

Dr Daniel Amen: Do you remember when I did Change your Brain, Change your Age, and I did ... What did I do? 10 pull-ups with 22 pounds of weight around my waist.

Tana Amen: Oh yeah, that was really cool. Yeah.

Dr Daniel Amen: That was really awesome. You can do this. It doesn't take much. You just need to be committed to exercise if you want to keep your brain healthy because ultimately your brain uses 20% of the blood flow in your body. And really, besides keeping muscle on your body, the reason to exercise is optimize the physical health of your blood vessels. That's what keeps your brain healthy. The number one brain imaging predictor of Alzheimer's Disease is low blood flow to your brain. You do not want that.