A new study, which measured the activity of older people over a four year period, has shown that daily physical activity such as cooking, cleaning and playing cards could help to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s. The study is published on 18 April in the journal Neurology.
The scientists from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago recruited 716 volunteers with an average age of 82 years. None of the volunteers had dementia at the start of the study, but they were followed up with thinking and memory tests over a four year period.
Each volunteer was given a small computer attached to a band which they wore on their wrist 24 hours a day for up to ten days. This computer, called an actigraph, recorded their physical activity – including cooking, cleaning, playing cards and even wheeling a wheelchair.
The results showed that those volunteers with the lowest daily physical activity had more than two-fold higher risk of going on to develop Alzheimer’s than those who were the most active. This association remained even after the scientists accounted for other factors such as age, sex, social activities and chronic health conditions.
Dr Simon Ridley, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Research UK, said:
“There is already some evidence that exercise in midlife can help to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s. This study adds to this by suggesting that daily physical activity like doing household jobs or playing cards could have benefits into older age.
“One of the strengths of this study is that physical activity was measured using a small monitoring device, rather than relying on self-reported questionnaires which can often be unreliable. While the study highlights an association between physical activity and cognitive decline, more research is needed to explore this relationship further.
“Over 820,000 people in the UK are living with dementia, and with number expected to rise, there is a desperate need to understand how to lower our risk. Research into prevention of dementia is vital, and we must invest in more research now if we are to find the answers.”