Physical activity is associated with higher cognitive function among adults at risk for Alzheimer's disease

Complement Ther Med. 2018 Feb:36:46-49. doi: 10.1016/j.ctim.2017.11.014. Epub 2017 Nov 24.


Objective: We evaluated the specific association between physical activity and cognitive function among a national sample of the broader U.S. adult population with a family history of Alzheimer's disease.

Methods: Data from the 1999-2002 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) were used to identify 219 older adults, ages 60-85, with a family history of Alzheimer's disease. The Digit Symbol Substitution Test (DSST) was used to assess cognitive function, with physical activity assessed via a validated questionnaire.

Results: In an unadjusted model, older adults, who had at least one blood relative with Alzheimer's disease, had greater cognitive function when meeting MVPA guidelines in comparison to their inactive counterparts (β=9.6; 95% CI: 4.6-14.7; P=0.001). After adjustments, results were attenuated, but still statistically significant (8.5; 95% CI: 4.0-13.0; P=0.001).

Conclusion: In this national sample of individuals at risk for Alzheimer's disease, meeting physical activity guidelines was associated with higher cognitive function.

Keywords: Chronic disease; Dementia; Executive functioning; Genetic predisposition; Old age; Primary prevention.

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Alzheimer Disease / epidemiology*
  • Alzheimer Disease / physiopathology*
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Cohort Studies
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Middle Aged
  • Motor Activity
  • Nutrition Surveys