Researchers at the American Academy of Neurology explored how physical and mental activity helps to preserve thinking skills and delay dementia. The study is published in the journal Neurology.
The researchers recruited 758 participants, men and women, aged approximately 76 years. Some were healthy, whereas others had mild cognitive impairment or dementia.
The participants were quizzed on their weekly physical and mental activities, such as reading, brisk walking, playing card games, biking, etc. They were also asked to undertake a series of thinking speed and memory tests.
The research team then tallied the benefits of thinking and physical activities with factors like structural changes in the brain, the volume of hippocampus, and the genetics of Alzheimer’s disease (AD).
The results provided interesting insights into the brain benefits of physical and mental activity, for both men and women. It was found that mental activity in thinking was associated with a greater cognitive reserve and thinking speed in both men and women.
In fact, women reaped greater cognitive benefits from mental activities, compared to men. However, greater physical activity was associated with memory reserve in neither men nor women.
One of the lead researchers, Dr. Judy Pa, elaborated: “To know that people could potentially improve their cognitive reserve by taking simple steps such as going to classes at the community center, playing bingo with their friends or spending more time walking or gardening is very exciting.”
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Pa, J., Aslanyan, V., Casaletto, K. B., RenterÃa, M. A., Harrati, A., Tom, S. E., Armstrong, N., Rajan, K., Avila-Rieger, J., Gu, Y., Schupf, N., Manly, J. J., Brickman, A., & Zahodne, L. (2022). Effects of Sex, APOE4, and Lifestyle Activities on Cognitive Reserve in Older Adults. Neurology, 10.1212/WNL.0000000000200675. Advance online publication. https://doi.org/10.1212/WNL.0000000000200675