Moderate Exercise May Cut Dementia Risk
Walking, Climbing Stairs, and Other Physical Activity May Help Elders Avoid Dementia
Dec. 19, 2007 -- Moderate physical activity (such as walking and climbing
stairs) may help prevent dementia in people aged 65 and older.
Italian researchers report that news in today's online edition of
They studied 749 Italians aged 65 and older for four years.
When the study started, participants didn't have dementia or mild cognitive
impairment, which can lead to dementia. They noted their weekly physical
activities, including how many city blocks they walk and how many flights of
stairs they climb in a day.
By the end of the study, 86 people had been diagnosed with dementia. They
included 54 people with Alzheimer's disease, 27 people with vascular dementia --
which is dementia related to problems with blood vessels in the brain
-- and five people with other types of dementia.
The most active people were less likely to develop vascular dementia than
the least active people.
Walking stood out. People who walked the most were less likely to develop
vascular dementia than those who walked the least.
"It is important to note that, in terms of lowering vascular dementia
risk, an easy-to-perform moderate activity like walking provided the same
benefits of other, more demanding activities," write the researchers, who
included Giovanni Ravaglia, MD, of the University Hospital in Bologna.
Ravaglia and colleagues adjusted the data in light of medical, social, and
genetic dementia risk factors. The findings held.
Still, the study doesn't capture every trait that affects a person's chance
of developing dementia.
Physical activity didn't cut the odds of developing Alzheimer's disease. But
the researchers warn against jumping to the conclusion that physical activity
doesn't prevent Alzheimer's disease.