According to a meta-analysis, leisure activities that include hanging out with friends and family, practicing yoga, and reading a book can help reduce the risk of dementia. The studies reviewed looked at the impact of social, physical and cognitive functioning and the risk of dementia.
Previous studies have shown that leisure is associated with a variety of health benefits, including reduced atrial fibrillation, reduced cancer risk, and an individual’s perception of their well-being.
However, there is inconsistent evidence about the role that leisure activities play in preventing dementia. A meta-analysis found that leisure activities, such as volunteering, playing sports or making crafts, were associated with a reduced risk of dementia.
A total of 38 studies were included in the review, which included more than 2 million dementia-free individuals who were followed for at least 3 years.
Information on leisure activities was provided through interviews or questionnaires. Leisure activities were classified as those that individuals participated in for well-being or pleasure and were divided into social, physical and mental activities. During the studies, 74,700 individuals developed dementia.
After adjusting for factors that included education, gender, and age, leisure activities were found to be generally associated with a reduced risk of dementia. Individuals who participated in leisure activities had a 17% reduced risk of dementia compared to individuals who did not participate in leisure activities.
Mental activities consisted primarily of intellectual activities such as writing or reading for pleasure, listening to the radio, watching television, playing musical instruments or games, making crafts, and using a computer. Individuals who participated in these activities were found to have a 23% reduced risk of dementia.
Physical activity included running, walking, cycling, swimming, using exercise equipment, yoga, dancing and playing sports. Individuals who participated in these activities were found to have a 17% reduced risk of dementia.
Social activities generally referred to activities that interact with others, such as joining a social club, taking a class, volunteering, attending religious services, or visiting with friends or relatives. Individuals who participated in these activities were observed to have a 7% reduced risk of dementia.
This meta-analysis shows that recreational activities are beneficial, and there are many activities that are easily integrated into daily life that can benefit the brain. Research has shown that leisure activities can reduce the risk of dementia.
A limitation of the study was that individuals self-reported their mental and physical activity, so their activity may not have been accurately recalled or reported.
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