How staying active—even by gardening—may reduce Alzheimer's risk

Study ties routine physical activity to lower rate of disease

Topics: Geriatrics, Service Lines, Neurosciences

April 20, 2012

Everyday activity—such as gardening, cooking, and even moving around the house—may reduce the risk of Alzheimer's disease in the elderly, according to a study in Neurology.

For the study, researchers at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago used an actigraph—a device that registers even minute forms of activity—to monitor the activity levels of 716 elderly individuals who did not have dementia. In the four years following the activity testing, the researchers found that 71 individuals in the study developed signs of Alzheimer's disease.

Using statistical analysis, the researchers determined that the 10% most active participants were 8% less likely to develop the disease over the four years. Meanwhile, the 10% least active participants were 18% more likely to develop the disease over the study period.

Causal connection?
Although lead study author Aron Buchman acknowledged that the study does not prove whether reduced activity levels or brain issues come first, he said the study suggests that "increasing all kinds of movements may be beneficial in the long run."

In an accompanying editorial, Mount Sinai School of Medicine's Michal Schnaider Beeri and University of Waterloo's Laura Middleton argue that, "[i]n a world that is becoming progressively sedentary, and in the context of very limited success of the currently available medications to treat or delay Alzheimer's disease, physical activity provides a promising, low-cost, easily accessible, and side-effect-free means to prevent Alzheimer's disease."

The researchers note that the findings could have a significant impact on public health. Experts currently estimate the number of elderly U.S. residents will double to reach 80 million individuals by 2030 (Dotinga, HealthDay, 4/18; Phend, MedPage Today, 4/18).

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