Study: Exercise alone may not prevent mental decline in elderly

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While numerous studies have said that staying physically active can help keep adults staying fit into old age, a new study in the Archives of Neurology says exercise alone may not protect against mental decline.

Researchers analyzed data from the Chicago Health and Aging Project, a large ongoing study of risk factors for chronic disease among elderly adults. They followed 4,055 study participants, aged 73.5 years, on average, for about six years. During that time, the seniors participated in periodic assessments of their mental health.

On average, the seniors engaged in nearly four hours of physical activity each week, including gardening, walking, calisthenics and general exercise.

Physical activity did not appear to be associated with higher mental function at the start of the study. Also, while increased hours of physical activity appeared to be associated with slower rates of mental decline, this association did not hold true when the seniors were engaged in mentally stimulating activities, according to the study report.