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More Evidence That Physical Activity Lessens Cognitive Decline

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New research, published in Neurology (2012; [78], 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.

Shirley Archer-Eichenberger, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, is an internationally acknowledged integrative health and mindfulness specialist, best-selling author of 16 fitness and wellness books translated into multiple languages and sold worldwide, award-winning health journalist, contributing editor to Fitness Journal, media spokesperson, and IDEA's 2008 Fitness Instructor of the Year. She's a 25-year industry veteran and former health and fitness educator at the Stanford Prevention Research Center, who has served on multiple industry committees and co-authored trade books and manuals for ACE, ACSM and YMCA of the USA. She has appeared on TV worldwide and was a featured trainer on America's Next Top Model.

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