A recent study published in Lancet Healthy Longevity has found that engaging in vigorous physical activity can lower the mortality rate associated with dementia. Dementia affects over 55 million people worldwide and is characterized by a range of neurological conditions that impact the brain, with Alzheimer’s disease being the most common type. In 2019, there were 1.62 million global deaths attributed to dementia, making it the fourth leading cause of death among individuals aged 70 and older.
The study, led by Dr. Borja del Pozo Cruz, aimed to explore the difference between moderate and vigorous physical activity in relation to dementia-related mortality. Several previous studies have highlighted the positive impact of physical activity on dementia risk. For their study, the researchers analyzed data from the U.S. National Health Interview Survey spanning from 1997 to 2018. The findings revealed that engaging in moderate physical activity did not show a significant association with Alzheimer’s disease-related mortality. However, participating in vigorous physical activity was found to have a significant impact on reducing Alzheimer’s disease-related death.
The researchers identified a minimum amount of 40 minutes per week and an optimal amount of 140 minutes per week of vigorous physical activity for maximizing the preventive benefits against Alzheimer’s disease. While the results of the study provide clear evidence supporting the role of vigorous physical activity in preventing Alzheimer’s disease, Dr. del Pozo Cruz emphasizes the need for further research using objective measures of physical activity.
Ryan Glatt, a senior brain health coach and director of the FitBrain Program at Pacific Neuroscience Institute, commented on the study, stating that it adds to our understanding of exercise recommendations for individuals at high risk for Alzheimer’s disease. He suggests that different intensities of exercise may impact the benefits gained, and further research is needed to determine the role of exercise variables in populations with varying risk factors.
In terms of physical activity recommendations, Glatt advises adhering to the Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, which recommend 150-300 minutes per week of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, along with strength training and neuromotor training. The guidelines provide a range to account for individual differences and preferences when considering exercise recommendations.