All types of physical activity may reduce Alzheimer’s risk

All types of physical activity may reduce Alzheimer’s risk

By Liz Lockhart

New research suggests that daily physical activity may be just what is needed to avoid the risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease.  All types of physical activity are found to be of benefit, not only exercise but household task such as cleaning and washing up.  These benefits can be felt throughout all age groups even those over the age of 80.

The research study was conducted by researchers from Rush University Medical Centre.  The findings are published in the online issue of Neurology.

The lead author, Dr Aron S. Buchman, an associate professor of neurological science at Rush said ‘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.  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.’

He added ‘This is the first study to use an objective measurement of physical activity in addition to self-reporting.  This is important because people may be able to remember the details correctly.’

For the study, the researchers asked the 716 participants to wear an ‘actigraph’ on their left wrist at all times for ten days.  This is a device which monitors activity, the left wrist was chosen as it is the non-dominant wrist.  The participants had an average of 82 and none had dementia.

All exercise was then recorded, both exercise and non-exercise type physical activity.  The participants self-reported their physical and social activities.  They were also given an annual cognitive test to measure memory and thinking abilities during this on-going study.  The participants were part of the Rush Memory and Aging Project which is an on-going community study which looks at common conditions which occur in old age.

Over an average of three and a half years, 71 participants developed Alzheimer’s disease.  The researchers found that individuals who fell into the bottom 10% for daily physical activity were over twice as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease compared to the individuals in the top 10%.  The researchers also found that those participants in the bottom 10% of physical activity were nearly three times as likely to develop Alzheimer’s as those in the top 10% of the intensity of physical activity.

Buchman said ‘Since the actigraph was attached to the wrist, activities like cooking, washing the dishes, playing cards and even moving a wheelchair with a person’s arms were beneficial.  These are low-cost, easily accessible and side-effect free acrivities people can do at any age, including very old age, to possibly prevent Alzheimer’s.’

He concluded ‘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.’

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