An active lifestyle may help slow the progress of cognitive decline in people who have Parkinson’s disease and a genetic propensity for dementia, a new study finds.

Problems with thinking and memory are common nonmotor symptoms of Parkinson’s disease. In a study from South Korea, researchers followed 173 older adults with early disease. A total of 27% had the APOE e4 gene variant that predisposes people to Alzheimer’s disease. Participants answered questions regarding their everyday, physically active work and leisure activities in the previous week.

Participants were given cognitive tests at the beginning of the study and then at one and two years later. In people with the APOE e4 gene variant, test scores declined by the end of the study when compared with the performance of their peers without the variant. But greater physical activity at the study’s start appeared to lessen this gene-related cognitive decline two years later, the authors reported.

Although further investigation is needed, the current results may support the use of physical activity interventions to delay cognitive decline in people with early Parkinson’s who have the APOE e4 gene variant, the authors concluded.

“Problems with thinking skills and memory can have a negative impact on people’s quality of life and ability to function, so it’s exciting that increasing physical activity could have the potential to delay or prevent cognitive decline,” said study author Jin-Sun Jun, M.D., of Hallym University in Seoul.

Full findings were published in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.