A study published in April 2012 reports that a higher level of physical activity reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and cognitive decline in older adults.
The investigators followed 716 older adults without dementia for approximately four years. The subjects were evaluated at the beginning of the study for total daily exercise and non-exercise physical activity for up to 10 days with actigraphy, which uses a device worn by the subjects to record activity. The researchers conducted annual evaluations of the subjects, including clinical examination and a battery of 19 cognitive tests.
The researchers concluded, “A higher level of total daily physical activity is associated with a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease.”
Seventy-one subjects developed Alzheimer’s disease during the follow-up period. Total daily physical activity was associated with an inverse risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, showing a reduction in risk by approximately 52 percent with increased physical activity.
After adjusting the data for self-reported physical, social and cognitive activities, as well as current level of motor function, depressive symptoms, chronic health conditions and the status of different types or alleles of apolipoprotein E (APOE allele 4 is strongly associated with Alzheimer’s disease), the association between physical activity and reduced Alzheimer’s disease risk remained. The investigators also found that the level of total daily physical activity was associated with the rate of global cognitive decline.
Buchman AS, et al. Neurology. 2012;17:1323-9