Physical activity can keep seniors mentally sharp and lower their risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Indeed, recent studies by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), shows that physical activity by seniors suffering from dementia — helps slow down the disease’s advancement.
Physical Activity: Study Results
More than 450 older adults were tested. Participants were given a series of cognitive, behavioral, and biomedical tests during their lives, and generously agreed to donate their brain and other tissues following their deaths.
Researchers measured daily activity, motor function, and cognition. Signs of dementia were observed in 191 participants, while the remaining 263 participants were dementia free.
Daily activity was measured over 10 days using an accelerometer device worn on the wrist, averaged into a daily activity score.
Cognitive function was measured by assessing memory, spatial reasoning, and the ability to rapidly perceive or compare objects.
Motor abilities were measured such as fine motor skills, walking ability, and grip and pinch strength.
In addition, brain tissue from these participants was measured after their death. The tissues were examined for signs of Alzheimer’s disease, including amyloid plaques and tau tangles.
The results were clear. Even after accounting for Alzheimer’s disease and other brain damage, more activity was associated with better cognitive function. This finding shows that physical activity improves cognitive performance, and offsets the negative consequences of aging.
This study does indicate that activity helps to improve cognitive functioning in senior citizens. And that, greater physical activity may even help protect against the harmful effects of brain degeneration in diseases like Alzheimer’s.