A new study shows that simple activities like cooking, cleaning and washing the dishes — as well as good old-fashioned exercise — are linked with a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease, even among people age 80 and older.
The study, which included 716 people (average age of 82), was published in thejournal Neurology.
“These results provide support for efforts to encourage physical activity in even very old people who might not be able to participate in formal exercise but can still benefit from a more active lifestyle,” study researcher Dr. Aron S. Buchman, M.D., of the Rush University Medical Center, said in a statement.
The study participants wore an activity-monitoring device, called an actigraph, on their non-dominant wrist for the study, in order to track how much they moved and exercised for 10 days. The study participants also took tests every year for four years to gauge their memory and cognitive abilities, researchers said.
Over the four year period, 71 people went on to develop Alzheimer’s. However, researchers found that the people who were the least active each day — in the bottom 10th percentile in the study — were two times more likely to go on to develop Alzheimer’s disease, compared with people who were in the top 10th percentile for daily activity.
The results were even more marked when evaluating the intensity of physical activity: Those who were in the bottom 10th percentile for physical activity intensity were three times more likely to develop Alzheimer’s, compared with those in the top 10th percentile.
However, Health.com pointed out that the study doesn’t identify what kinds of physical activity seem to work best at warding off Alzheimer’s, since the actigraphs are only able to detect activity, but not the type of it.
Previous research from the Boston Medical Center also suggests that physical activity is linked with Alzheimer’s. That research suggested that walking speed and grip strength are predictors of who is likely to develop Alzheimer’s or dementia.