Leisure activities that are linked to a lower risk of dementia include physical exercise, social engagement, mentally stimulating activities, and hobbies such as reading, playing musical instruments, and engaging in creative pursuits such as painting or photography. These activities have been shown to improve cognitive function and may help reduce the risk of developing dementia.
Leisure activities such as reading a book, doing yoga, and spending time with family and friends may help lower the risk of dementia, according to a new meta-analysis published in the August 10, 2022, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology. The meta-analysis examined available studies on the effects of cognitive, physical, and social activities on the risk of dementia.
“Previous studies have shown that leisure activities are associated with various health benefits, such as a lower cancer risk, a reduction in atrial fibrillation, and a person’s perception of their own well-being,” said study author Lin Lu, PhD, of Peking University Sixth Hospital in Beijing, China.
“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.”
Leisure activities, according to our findings, may lower the risk of dementia. To uncover more links between leisure activities and dementia, future studies should include larger sample sizes and longer follow-up times.Lin Lu
The meta-analysis included a review of 38 studies from around the world involving over 2 million people who did not have dementia. The subjects were monitored for at least three years.
Questionnaires or interviews were used to collect information about participants’ leisure activities. Leisure activities, which were divided into mental, physical, and social activities, were defined as those in which people engaged for enjoyment or well-being. 74,700 people developed dementia during the studies.
After controlling for factors such as age, gender, and education, researchers discovered that leisure activities in general were associated with a lower risk of dementia. Those who engaged in leisure activities had a 17% lower risk of developing dementia than those who did not.
Mental activity primarily consisted of intellectual activities such as reading or writing for pleasure, watching television, listening to the radio, playing games or musical instruments, using a computer, and making crafts. Researchers discovered that people who participated in these activities had a 23% lower risk of dementia.
Physical activities included walking, running, swimming, bicycling, using exercise machines, playing sports, yoga, and dancing. Researchers found that people who participated in these activities had a 17% lower risk of dementia.
Social activities mainly referred to activities that involved communication with others and included attending a class, joining a social club, volunteering, visiting with relatives or friends, or attending religious activities. Researchers found that people who participated in these activities had a 7% lower risk of dementia.
“This meta-analysis suggests that being active has benefits, and there are numerous activities that are simple to incorporate into daily life that may be beneficial to the brain,” Lu explained. “Leisure activities, according to our findings, may lower the risk of dementia. To uncover more links between leisure activities and dementia, future studies should include larger sample sizes and longer follow-up times.”
One limitation of the study was that participants reported their own physical and mental activity, so they may not have correctly remembered and reported the activities.