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Alzheimer's disease risk is cut in the elderly by modest physical activity

Apr 18th, 2012
Staff Writer

Photo credit: national institutes of healthAlzheimer's disease may be less likely to develop in elderly individuals who continue to maintain at least a modest level of daily physical activity, according to a new study.

The study was designed to thoroughly assess daily physical activity and the onset of Alzheimer's disease. To do this, researchers at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago asked 716 older people without dementia to wear a device that measures activity for 10 days. The average age of the participants was 82.

When researchers follow up with the study participants more than three years later, they found 71 had been diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease. But those people who scored the lowest on daily physical activity were almost three times as likely to have developed Alzheimer's compared to people who were in the top10 percent of the most active..

The physical activity didn't need to be strenuous, the researchers noted. Cooking, light housekeeping, even moving a wheelchair was beneficial.

"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," said Dr. Aron S. Buchman, the lead author of the paper and an associate professor of neurological sciences.

The study was published Wednesday in the journal Neurology.