New research, published in Neurology (2012; , 1323–29), adds to the growing evidence that physical activity can reduce cognitive decline and slow progression of Alzheimer’s disease. The significance of this particular study is that it measured total daily activity using actigraphy instead of relying on self-reporting by study subjects. Self-reporting is not always accurate, whereas actigraphy provides an objective method of monitoring movement. (A small actigraph unit, worn like a wristwatch or heart monitor, measures motor activity.) Study findings showed a clear relationship between higher levels of overall physical activity and lower rates of cognitive decline.
More good news from this research is that increasing activity helps even when people are over the age of 80, since the average age of study subjects was 82. What’s more, every movement counts—even activities as simple as cooking, playing cards or washing dishes.
Subjects included 716 older men and women without dementia who were participating in the Rush Memory and Aging Project, based at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. The majority of participants were women, and subjects volunteered to take part, so findings were not necessarily representative of the general population.