Introduction: We tested the hypotheses that higher levels of and persistence of midlife leisure-time physical activity (LTPA) are associated long-term with lower cognitive decline and less incident dementia.
Methods: A total of 10,705 participants (mean age: 60 years) had LTPA (no, low, middle, or high) measured in 1987-1989 and 1993-1995. LTPA was assessed in relation to incident dementia and 14-year change in general cognitive performance.
Results: Over a median follow-up of 17.4 years, 1063 dementia cases were observed. Compared with no LTPA, high LTPA in midlife was associated with lower incidence of dementia (hazard ratio [95% confidence interval], 0.71 [0.61, 0.86]) and lower declines in general cognitive performance (-0.07 standard deviation difference [-0.12 to -0.04]). These associations were stronger when measured against persistence of midlife LTPA over 6 years.
Discussion: LTPA is a readily modifiable factor associated inversely with long-term dementia incidence and cognitive decline.
Keywords: Cognitive decline; Cohort study; Dementia; Epidemiology; Physical activity.
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