I’m always loathe to report on small studies that make big claims, but there seem to be so many proven benefits to staying active throughout one’s life that the latest research due to be published in the journal American Academy of Neurology is worthy of a mention. Researchers at Rush University Medical Center shows that daily physical activity may reduce the risk of cognitive decline and developing Alzheimer’s disease even in people over the age of 80 years.
“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,” says lead author Aron Buchman of Rush.
The team monitored daily activity among 716 seniors without apparent dementia with an average age of 82 using an actigraph during a period of ten days. Over the course of 3.5 years follow-up, the recorded 71 cases of Alzheimer’s disease but found that in the lower 10% of daily physical activity (as measured by that ten day test period) the least active had a relative risk 2.3 times that of the active volunteers in the top 10%. So, yes it’s a small-scale study, it determined activity only over a ten-day period as baseline and assumed that the participants maintained that level of activity over the 3.5 average follow-up period. It also ignores any prior lifetime activity and many other factors that could affect risk.
Nevertheless, the research is somewhat encouraging and if it persuades seniors to stay active then they will gain from the other benefits of physical activity in their latter years too. Previously, Buchman and colleagues have correlated body mass index and blood haemoglobin levels with Alzheimer’s risk in the elderly.