A study conducted on 469 men and women (above 75 years of age) has shown that senior people who keep themselves involved in leisure activities till later life reduce their risk of developing dementia (loss of memory).
At the beginning of the study none of the participants had dementia. The participants were monitored for a period of 5 years during which their level of leisure activity was measured. To assess the degree of involvement in the leisure activities the researchers developed an activity days per week scale which indicated how often a participant engaged in cognitive activities (activities which involve knowing, thinking, learning and judging) and physical activities each week. The cognitive activities included reading, playing chess, crossword puzzles, practicing a musical instrument etc. and physical activities such as dancing.
At the end of study it was observed that around one fourth of the participants developed some form of dementia including Alzheimer’ disease (neurodegenerative disorder characterized by progressive deterioration in the brain resulting in irreversible memory loss, deterioration in intellectual functions, speech disturbances etc.). The researchers found that these were those participants who rarely engaged in activities such as reading, playing chess, playing any musical instrument or rarely involved themselves in any other activities that kept their mind active and engaged.
On the other hand all those participants who were actively engaged in some form of cognitive activity had 38% less risk of developing dementia. Moreover, the decreased risk was also related to how frequently the activity was performed. According to the researchers all those participants who solved crossword puzzles four days in a week were at a 47% less risk of developing dementia than those who did puzzles only once in a week. Dancing was also found to be beneficial, although physical activity in general did not affect dementia risk in this study.
The findings of the study prove that cognitive activities (or activities that keep the mind active and engaged) such as reading, playing chess or bridge, solving crossword puzzles, playing a musical instrument may reduce the risk or delay the onset of dementia.
It therefore seems that it would be a good idea to keep yourself engaged with some form of cognitive activities to keep your gray matter working till a later age.