A study led by Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health researchers that tracked activity levels of 646 adults over 30 years found that, contrary to previous research, exercise in mid-life was not linked to cognitive fitness in later years.
The finding suggests that physical activity may not help maintain cognitive function, or help avoid or delay the onset of the debilitating conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s. Alzheimer’s affects as many as 30 million, mostly older people throughout the world. With no known treatment or cure, researchers are trying to identify measures that might help delay Alzheimer’s onset or limit its reach.
The study, which appears online in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease, did find that activity levels among study participants in the later years were associated with high cognitive function two years later. This supports earlier research findings that exercise may help to maintain cognitive fitness in the short term.
“This study reminds us that physical activity has all sorts of benefits for people, including promoting cardiovascular health, managing optimal weight levels and maintaining bone and muscle mass,” says Dr. Alden L. Gross, assistant professor in Johns Hopkins’ department of epidemiology. “Unfortunately it is too early for us to say the same about exercise and Alzheimer’s, especially as a possible long-term preventive measure.”