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Does Increased Activity Decrease the Risk of Dementia?

Does Increased Activity Decrease the Risk of Dementia?


Dementia is nearly the four letter word of aging. No one wants to watch their parents or partners fade away into a loss of memories and recognition. For so long it seemed that all we could do was sit back and hope the “d-word” didn’t come along. That is until now.

The correlation between moving our bodies and maintaining our intellect is strengthening. It has long been presumed that there was a link between physical activity and keeping dementia at bay, but there was little concrete evidence to support this assumption. A study by the University of Florida in the issue of Archives of Internal Medicine discovered that “older adults using relatively high amounts of energy in their daily activities have a significantly decreased risk of becoming cognitively impaired compared to those who spend less energy.”

The major breakthrough in this study is the fact that for the first time, energy usage was measured scientifically, instead just through participant self-reporting. Self-reporting can be inaccurate either because the participant exaggerates the amount of the exercise done in a day, or because the participant is too focused on formal exercise, and fails to note tasks such as housekeeping and gardening.

By using “heavy water” (highly oxygenated water) researchers were actually able to measure the amount of carbon dioxide expended by the participants as an accurate measure of energy utilized by the body. The results? The most active study participants decreased their risk of dementia by 90%.

While much more evaluation must be done, these initial reports are definitely encouraging. Keeping yourself, your parents, and your partner active and participating in life increases both immediate and long term enjoyment and quality of life. So get moving!

-Barbara McVicker, eldercare expert, national speaker, and author of Stuck in the Middle: Shared Stories and Tips on Caring for Mom and Dad.