According to a new study by neurological researchers from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, nearly any type of daily physical activity may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive decline, even if you’re over the age of 80. “The results of our study indicate that all physical activities including exercise as well as other activities such as cooking, washing the dishes, and cleaning are associated with a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease,” said Aron S. Buchman, MD, lead author and associate professor of neurological sciences at Rush. “These results provide support for efforts to encourage all types of physical activity even in very old adults who might not be able to participate in formal exercise, but can still benefit from a more active lifestyle.”
To measure total daily exercise and non-exercise physical activity, researchers from Rush asked 716 older individuals without dementia with an average age of 82 to continuously wear a device called an actigraph, which monitors activity, on their nondominant wrist for 10 days. All exercise and nonexercise physical activity was recorded. Study participants also were given annual cognitive tests during this ongoing study to measure memory and thinking abilities. Participants also self-reported their physical and social activities.
Over a mean of 3.5 years of follow-up, 71 participants developed Alzheimer’s disease. The research found that people in the bottom 10 percent of daily physical activity were more than twice as likely (2.3 times) to develop Alzheimer’s disease as people in the top 10 percent of daily activity. The study also showed that those in the bottom 10 percent of intensity of physical activity were almost three times (2.8 times) as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease as people in the top percent of the intensity of physical activity. “Our study shows that physical activity, which is an easily modifiable risk factor, is associated with cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease. This has important public health consequences,” Buchman said.
Rush is still actively recruiting participants for this study, The Study on Frailty in Aging (SOFIA), a sub-study of the ongoing Rush Memory and Aging Project. Those interested can contact study coordinator Tracey Nowakowski at 312-942-2214. Participants must be 65 years of age or older with no previous diagnosis of dementia.