Running and Your Risk of Alzheimer's

A study published in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease discussed different risk factors for dying from Alzheimer's disease. The researchers looked at several conditions to see if they increased or decreased this risk.

A couple running by the ocean

Jordan Siemens / Taxi / Getty Images

The Study

More than 154,000 people who were runners and walkers were studied for over 11 years. They reported their dietary habits, including how much fruit they ate each day, as well as how much they ran or walked each week. At the end of the study, 175 people's deaths were attributed to Alzheimer's disease.

The Results

  1. Those who were on statins had a 60% lower risk of death from Alzheimer's. Statins are a class of medications that treat high cholesterol. Statins have been identified before as a potential factor that decreases the risk of dementia, but research results have varied.
  2. Love fruit? Eat up. Participants who reported eating 3 or more servings of fruit per day also had a 60% lower risk of death from Alzheimer's disease.
  3. Run (a lot!). Results showed that people who ran over 15 miles per week had a 40% lower risk of dying from Alzheimer's disease. Research has repeatedly demonstrated a correlation between physical exercise and a lower risk of Alzheimer's and other kinds of dementia. But to the best of my knowledge, this is the first study to show the benefits related to this large amount of running. The study further demonstrated that people who ran less — between 7.7 and 15.3 miles each week — had a 25% decreased risk of death tied to Alzheimer's disease. The researchers also noted that participants in the study who spent about double the amount of time walking (compared to those who ran 15 miles each week) demonstrated the same benefits.


  1. Eat that fruit. Berries and apples, in particular, have been specifically researched multiple times and have shown a clear connection to a decreased risk of cognitive decline and improved brain health.
  2. If you have cholesterol problems, you could consider asking your practitioner if treatment with statins might be appropriate. However, don't overlook the importance of a healthy diet to improve your cholesterol numbers.
  3. Should you be running 15 miles each week? It depends. If you're interested in reducing your dementia risk and your healthcare provider has cleared you for this type of exercise, it sounds like it'll benefit you. However, other studies concluded that weight resistance training — not running — was the most effective type of physical exercise to reduce your dementia risk. Weight resistance training also has the benefit of not being a high impact type of exercise, so it can be a little more gentle on your body, and perhaps, accomplish a reduced risk in a more efficient manner. If you already run and enjoy it, keep it up, and motivate yourself with the knowledge that the benefits could go beyond the physical and carry over to your brain.
Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  • Journal of Alzheimer's Disease. Running and Walking May Lower Alzheimer's Disease Risk. December 15, 2014.

  • Journal of Alzheimer's Disease. Lower Risk of Alzheimer's Disease Mortality with Exercise, Statin, and Fruit Intake. November 2014.

By Esther Heerema, MSW
Esther Heerema, MSW, shares practical tips gained from working with hundreds of people whose lives are touched by Alzheimer's disease and other kinds of dementia.