Adults who remained active halved their risk of developing cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease, researchers found.
They believe older people could benefit from increased activity levels, even if they are unable to exercise intensively.
The team from Rush University Medical Centre in Chicago said their study aimed to address the lack of a clear link between levels of activity and Alzheimer’s disease.
The researchers used wrist bands to track activity levels of 716 adults aged around 80 years. Cognitive function was assessed using 19 tests at the start of the study and then again four years later. After four years, 71 patients had developed Alzheimer’s disease.
After adjusting for age, motor function, chronic health conditions and other factors, the researchers found that the least active patients were 2.3 times as likely to develop the disease as their active peers. In addition, the risk of cognitive decline fell as exercise increased.
Commenting on the findings, lead author Dr Aron Buchman said: ‘The results of our study indicate that all physical activities, including exercise, as well as other activities, such as cooking, washing the dishes and cleaning, are associated with a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
‘These results provide support for efforts to encourage all types of physical activity even in very old adults who might not be able to participate in formal exercise, but can still benefit from a more active lifestyle.’