According to a meta-analysis, leisure activities which include hanging out with friends and family, doing yoga, and reading a book could help reduce dementia risk. The studies reviewed were those on the effects of social, physical, and cognitive activities and dementia risk.1✅ JOURNAL REFERENCE DOI: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000200929
Prior studies have demonstrated that leisure activities were linked to various health benefits, which include a reduction of atrial fibrillation, reduced risk of cancer, and an individual’s perception of their well-being.
There’s however inconsistent evidence of the role that leisure activities have in preventing dementia. The meta-analysis observed that leisure activities such as volunteering, playing sports, or making crafts were associated with a reduced dementia risk.
A total of 38 studies were involved in the review which included over 2 million dementia-free individuals who were followed for a minimum of 3 years.
Information was provided on leisure activities by way of interviews or questionnaires. Leisure activities were classified as those in which individuals participated for well-being or enjoyment and were split into social, physical, and mental activities. 74,700 individuals developed dementia throughout the studies.
After factors were adjusted for which included education, sex, and age, it was discovered that leisure activities were overall associated with a reduced dementia risk. Individuals who participated in leisure activities had a 17% reduced dementia risk compared to individuals who didn’t participate in leisure activities.
Mental activity consisted mostly of intellectual activities such as writing or reading for pleasure, listening to the radio, watching TV, playing musical instruments or games, making crafts, and using a computer. It was found that individuals who took part in these activities had a 23% reduced dementia risk.
Physical activities included running, walking, bicycling, swimming, making use of exercise machines, yoga, dancing, and playing sports. It was found that individuals who took part in these activities had a 17% reduced dementia risk.
Social activities referred mostly to activities involving communication with others such as joining a social club, attending a class, volunteering, attending religious activities, or visiting with friends or relatives. It was observed that individuals who took part in these activities had a 7% reduced dementia risk.
This meta-analysis indicates that leisure activities are beneficial, and there are many activities that are easily integrated into daily life that could be of benefit to the brain. The study found that leisure activities could reduce dementia risk.
A study limitation was that individuals self-reported their own mental and physical activity, so their activities might not have been remembered and reported accurately.
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