Reading, doing yoga and spending time with family and friends might help lower your risk of dementia, a new study suggests.
"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," said study author Lin Lu, 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," Lu added.
For the new study, Lu and his team reviewed 38 studies that included more than 2 million people who did not have dementia. Of those, 74,700 developed dementia during the three-year follow-up.
After taking into account factors such as age, sex and education, the investigators found that people who engaged in leisure activities had a 17% lower risk of dementia than those who didn't.
The study looked at mental, physical and social activities.
Mental activities included reading, writing for pleasure, watching television, listening to the radio, playing games or musical instruments, using a computer and making crafts. Folks who did these activities had a 23% lower risk of dementia.
Physical activities — including walking, running, swimming, bicycling, using exercise machines, playing sports, yoga and dancing — were linked to a 17% lower dementia risk, the researchers found.
Engaging in social activities — such as staying in touch with others, taking classes, joining clubs, volunteering, spending time with relatives or friends, or attending church — was associated with a 7% lower risk.
This study can't prove that these activities lower the risk for dementia, only that there may be a connection, the team noted.
"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," Lu said in a news release from the American Academy of Neurology. "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."
The report was published online Aug. 10 in the journal Neurology.
There is more about dementia at the Alzheimer's Association.
SOURCE: American Academy of Neurology, news release, Aug. 10, 2022