Indulging in leisure activities may help decrease the risk of developing dementia, a study from Peking University in Beijing, China has found. The meta-analysis, which included data from 38 studies and over two million people, found that activities like reading a book, spending time with family and friend, or playing a musical instrument reduced the risk of the disorder.
“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,” the study’s author Lin Lu, PhD, Peking University Sixth Hospital in Beijing, China, said.
He added that previous studies investigating the role of leisure activities in preventing dementia offered conflicting evidence, while theirs did not. “…activities like making crafts, playing sports or volunteering were linked to a reduced risk of dementia,” Lu added.
The study, published in the online journal Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, studied the connection between cognitive activities, physical activities, and social activities and their effects on reducing the risk of developing dementia.
The study showed a 17% lower risk of developing dementia among people who routinely engage in physical activities like walking, running, swimming, and bicycling.
A 23% lower risk of developing dementia was uncovered among people who engaged in mental activities like reading and writing for pleasure, listening to the radio, playing an instrument, using a computer, and doing craftwork.
According to the study, people who participated in social activities, particularly those that involve communication with others such as attending a class, joining a social club, volunteering, visiting relatives or friends, or attending religious activities, had a 7% lower risk of developing dementia.
Over the course of the study, 74,700 of the over two million individuals being studied developed dementia, the researchers reported.
“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. “Future studies should include larger sample sizes and longer follow-up time to reveal more links between leisure activities and dementia.”