Which Leisure Activities Reduce Dementia Risk the Most? A New Study Aimed to Find Out

A recent study found that doing household chores is linked with a lower risk of dementia. How about activities that are a little more fun? New research finds they may be helpful, as well.

A study recently published in the American Academy of Neurology’s journal, Neurology, investigated the impact of fun activities like reading, making crafts, or doing yoga on dementia risk. The research team says such activities have already been linked with other health benefits, and they wondered how much that may extend to cognitive health.

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Dr. Lin Lu, study co-author from Peking University Sixth Hospital in Beijing, says, “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 well-being. However, there is conflicting evidence of the role of leisure activities in the prevention of dementia. Our research found that leisure activities like making crafts, playing sports or volunteering were linked to a reduced risk of dementia.”

To investigate the impacts of such activities, the team conducted a meta-analysis of 38 studies involving more than two million people across the globe without dementia when they first took part. Participants answered questions on their leisure activities, split into three categories: mental, physical, and social. They were then followed for at least three years, with 74,700 ultimately developing dementia.

When the researchers adjusted for confounding factors, they found that those who took part in leisure activities had a 17% lower risk of dementia than those who did not partake in such pastimes. Mental activities carried the largest risk reduction. There was a 23% lower incidence among those who reported doing things like reading or writing for pleasure, enjoying television or radio, playing games or musical instruments, using a computer, or making crafts.

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Physical activities like walking or running, swimming, cycling, yoga, and dancing were found to be beneficial as well, with those who remained active in such ways having a 17% lower risk. While social outings had a somewhat lesser benefit, there was still a 7% lower risk associated with activities like volunteering, joining a course or social club, and visiting with relatives and friends.

Though further research is needed, the team says staying active in such ways could provide more than enjoyment for you.

Dr. Lu explains, “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. 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.”

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While the link still has to be investigated, it may give you all the more reason to enjoy your favorite activities.

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