New research published in the journal Neurology indicates that performing everyday activities — including those that don’t officially meet the definition of "exercise" — may lower one’s risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease.
The researchers, led by Aron Buchman of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, found that elderly persons who moved about more (compared to their less active peers) were less likely to develop Alzheimer’s. This was true even for active persons who did not work out, but who nevertheless kept busy by gardening or puttering around the house.
The study involved more than700 subjects, average age 82, without dementia. Their activity was monitored for up to ten days by an actigraph. The actigraph, a small device worn by the subjects, detected when they engaged in conventional forms of exercise, as well as when they moved around in other ways.>
Fast forward roughly four years. During that follow-up period, 71 subjects developed the signs of Alzheimer’s disease. Those in the 10 percent of subjects who were most active showed an 8 percent likelihood for developing signs of the illness. Those in the 10 percent of subjects who were least active had an 18 percent likelihood.
Since 602 of the 716 test subjects were female, it is not clear whether this study’s results can be applied to the general population. As no cause and effect relationship has been proven, one question that remains unanswered is: "Which comes first, lower activity level or cognitive decline?" (It is possible that experiencing the initial stages of Alzheimer’s disease somehow leads people to slow down.) Even so, this investigation adds to earlier research suggesting a possible connection between regular physical activity and brain health. Increasing all types of movement may be healthful in the long run.