New study investigates the relationship between physical activity and change in cognition


Physical inactivity in later life has been identified as an important and modifiable risk factor for dementia. A new study, published in the journal Alzheimer’s & Dementia, investigated the association between objective measured physical activity and cognition in older adults over approximately eight years. Authors used data from 199 people from the Australian Imaging, Biomarkers and Lifestyle (AIBL) study. Cognitively normal participants were aged 60 and older at baseline. They were instructed to wear actigraphy monitors to measure physical activity (i.e. total counts, peak counts, daily kilocalories). Cognition was assessed using a comprehensive cognitive battery every 18-months. Findings demonstrated greater improvements in episodic recall memory and maintenance of global cognition over time, in people expending the highest energy per day. Those with higher physical activity intensity and greater total activity also had better global cognition over time. The published study showed that physical activity is associated with preserved cognition in healthy older adults. Authors suggested that activity intensity may play an important role in this association and that early intervention may be crucial to maintain cognition in older adults.