Leisure activities, cognition and dementia.Biochim Biophys Acta 2012; 1822(3):482-91BB
Accumulated evidence shows that leisure activities have a positive impact on cognitive function and dementia. This review aimed to systematically summarize the current evidence on this topic taking into account the limitations of the studies and biological plausibility for the underlying mechanisms linking cognition, dementia and leisure activities, with special attention on mental, physical and social activities. We included only longitudinal studies, with a follow-up time of at least 2 years, published in English from 1991 to March 2011 on leisure activities and cognition (n=29) or dementia (n=23) and provided some evidence from intervention studies on the topic. A protective effect of mental activity on cognitive function has been consistently reported in both observational and interventional studies. The association of mental activity with the risk of dementia was robust in observational studies but inconsistent in clinical trials. The protective effect of physical activity on the risk of cognitive decline and dementia has been reported in most observational studies, but has been less evident in interventional studies. Current evidence concerning the beneficial effect of other types of leisure activities on the risk of dementia is still limited and results are inconsistent. For future studies it is imperative that the assessment of leisure activities is standardized, for example, the frequency, intensity, duration and the type of activity; and also that the cognitive test batteries and the definition of cognitive decline are harmonized/standardized. Further, well designed studies with long follow-up times are necessary. This article is part of a Special Issue entitled: Imaging Brain Aging and Neurodegenerative disease.