According to a recent study published in the Dec 19 issue of the journal of Neurology, walking and other low-level exercises decrease the risk of vascular dementia in older adults. The study, unfortunately, did not find a link between low level activities and decreased onset of Alzheimer’s disease. Specifically, the study found that men and women over the age of 65 who preformed low-level, non-strenuous, activities on a daily basis were 71 to 73 percent less likely to develop symptoms of vascular dementia over a four year period.
Researchers noted, however, higher levels of exercise on a weekly basis made no difference in the decreased risk of vascular dementia. “… An easy-to-perform moderate activity like walking provided the same benefits as other, more demanding activities of similar intensity,” they said.
The study was the first of its kind to find a longitudinal link between regular low level exercise and decreased levels of vascular dementia. The study used data from the Conselice Study of Brain Aging, a study focusing on the population of Conselice in Italy. The region has similar rates of dementia as the United States and Europe. Below is an excerpt of an article from Medpage Today that reviews the study:
The study was the first to find a longitudinal link between regular exercise and vascular dementia, they said. Their findings bolster those of observational and interventional studies that have consistently found better cognitive performance in more active older adults.
The researchers analyzed data from the Conselice Study of Brain Aging, a population-based study in the Conselice region of Italy examining epidemiology and risk factors for cognitive impairment.
Dementia prevalence in the region was similar to that in the United States and Europe for rural areas with low education levels (37.8 per 1,000 person-years for any dementia and 11.0 for vascular dementia).
At baseline in 1999 and 2000, the study included 749 individuals 65 and older who did not have dementia or sensory-motor deficits that precluded physical activity.
All but 23.2% reported walking and only 21.2% did no stair climbing for exercise or in their daily routine. The most common moderate-intensity activities reported by the cohort were house and yard work, gardening, light carpentry, and bicycling.
More than 99% reported no regular sports or group physical activities and 87.8% reported no vigorous activity, but less than 1% of the cohort was completely sedentary.