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Dementia: The sports that reduce the risk by up to 37%

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The results came from a study of over 44,000 people aged 40 to 69 who were followed for an average of 10 years. The researchers compared dementia patients that required long-term care to levels of moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA).

There are compelling reasons to continue playing tennis and golf after retirement, according to a recent Japanese study linking them to a “strong” mind in old age.

While playing golf or tennis in middle age may appear to be just another leisure activity, a new study reveals that it also helps players maintain a healthy mental state. Men who exercise or participate in sports like golf and tennis had a lower risk of acquiring dementia, according to Japanese researchers.

People who did a lot of exercises were 25% less likely to get the disease, according to the study. The social features of these games, however, are also significant, according to academics. These activities, according to the researchers, have a similar effect to typical domestic responsibilities such as cleaning and cooking.

The researchers drew their conclusions after studying over 44,000 Japanese people aged 40 to 69 who had been followed for an average of 10 years. The authors of the study contrasted dementia cases requiring long-term care with those requiring moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA).

Corresponding author Dr. Norie Sawada says “Leisure activities that include cognitive activity have a protective association against cognitive decline and dementia.”

The study found that “combined cognitive and exercise training could improve the cognitive functions of community-dwelling older adults.”

In addition, social interaction associated with leisure-time physical activities, such as golf competitions and membership in tennis clubs, has been linked to a reduced risk of cognitive decline and dementia.

“The men in this study,” according to the authors, “might therefore have been subject to different protective associations against disabling dementia through habitual leisure-time MVPA involving cognitive activity and social activity compared with men with less leisure-time MVPA.”

The main findings of the study were:

  • 25% of participants who engaged more in such activities had  a 37% lower risk of dementia three years after the survey
  • the percentage was not affected by factors such as smoking, alcohol consumption and Body Mass Index
  • the most physically active participants had a 28% lower chance of dementia nine years later.

Zero effect on women

According to the researchers, women may have reaped fewer benefits from hitting the golf course or tennis court because they already gained a cognitive boost from undertaking more housework than males generally do in many communities.

“In contrast, this association of leisure-time MVPA may have been attenuated in women participants because women already engage in many cognitive activities through daily housework activities,” according to authors, “and are likely to have a larger social network than men.”

According to predictions, the number of people living with dementia will triple in the next three decades, to more than 150 million. With no treatment in sight, a greater emphasis is being placed on preventative lifestyle practices. According to these new studies, active middle-aged men can reduce their risk by a quarter when compared to their sedentary counterparts.

The results indicate that “a high level of leisure-time MVPA was associated with decreased risk of disabling dementia in men.”

Dementia is a public health priority according to the World Health Organization. Recent research has focused on developing new medicines that reduce brain inflammation and hence increase protection against Alzheimer’s disease.

Health experts recommend that persons engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of strenuous exercise each week in their own areas. They should also spend less time sitting or lying down and do something active to break up extended periods of inactivity.

“Physical activity is a potential preventive factor for dementia,” the team said, adding “and has been shown to have an inverse association with dementia incidence in several epidemiological studies.”

Source: 10.1001/jamanetworkopen.2022.4590

Image Credit: Getty

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