Leisurely activities may help lower risk of dementia, study says

Yan Krukov/Pexels

A recent meta-analysis suggested that cognitive, physical, and social activities were associated with a decreased risk of dementia.

The study, published in the journal, Neurology, was conducted by researchers from the Peking University Institute of Mental Health in Beijing, China. According to study author, Lin Lu, PhD, of Peking University Sixth Hospital, the study built upon past research which observed the association between leisurely activities and health.

“Previous studies have shown that leisure activities were associated with various health benefits, such as a lower cancer risk, a reduction of atrial fibrillation, and a person’s perception of their own wellbeing,” said Lu in a statement. “However, there is conflicting evidence of the role of leisure activities in the prevention of dementia.”

The meta-analysis and systematic review included 38 studies from around the world with data from over two million participants who did not originally have dementia. Patients were followed for at least three years and provided information through questionnaires or interviews on their leisurely activities.

The results showed that over the course of the studies, a combined 74,700 participants developed dementia. Overall, researchers found that leisurely activities were associated with a 17 percent lower risk of developing dementia.

Researchers found that those who participated in mental activities such as playing musical instruments and reading, had a 23 percent reduced risk of dementia compared to those who did not participate in mental activities. Physical activities like walking and running were associated with a 17 percent lower risk of dementia, according to the study. In addition, participants who engaged in social activities like volunteering and attending social clubs, had a seven percent lower risk of developing dementia.

“This meta-analysis suggests that being active has benefits, and there are plenty of activities that are easy to incorporate into daily life that may be beneficial to the brain,” said Lu. “Our research found that leisure activities may reduce the risk of dementia. Future studies should include larger sample sizes and longer follow-up time to reveal more links between leisure activities and dementia.”