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Playing tennis or golf in middle age can help men stave off Alzheimer’s

Dementia rates were slashed by a quarter among men who exercised the most compared to couch potato peers.

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Golf player at the putting green hitting ball into a hole
(ESB Professional via Shutterstock)

By Mark Waghorn via SWNS

Playing golf or tennis in middle age helps men stave off Alzheimer's, according to new research.

Those who got plenty of exercise were 25 percent less likely to develop the disease, a study found but they said the social aspect of these games was also important.

It has a similar effect to simple household chores like cleaning, tidying, and cooking - still regarded as "women's work" in many societies.

The findings are based on almost 44,000 adults in Japan tracked for around ten years on average.

Cases of dementia requiring long-term care were compared with levels of moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA). Participants aged 40 to 69 were tracked for an average of 10 years.

Corresponding author Dr. Norie Sawada, of the National Cancer Centre, Tokyo, said: "Leisure activities that include cognitive activity have a protective association against cognitive decline and dementia.

"A randomized clinical trial reported that combined cognitive and exercise training could improve the cognitive functions of community-dwelling older adults.

"In addition, the social activity that accompanies leisure-time physical activities, such as participation in golf competitions and enrollment in tennis circles, also has a protective association against cognitive decline and dementia.

"The men in this study might therefore have been subject to different protective associations against disabling dementia through habitual leisure-time MVPA involving cognitive activity and social activity compared with men with less leisure-time MVPA."

In Japan, women are still expected to quit work after getting married and starting a family.

Dr. Nawada said: "In contrast, this association of leisure-time MVPA may have been attenuated in women participants because women already engage in many cognitive activities through daily housework activities, and are likely to have a larger social network than men."

Worldwide, the number of people with dementia is expected to triple to more than 150 million in the next three decades.

With no cure in sight, there is an increasing focus on protective lifestyle factors.

Dementia rates were slashed by a quarter among men who exercised the most compared to couch potato peers.

Dr. Nawada said: "The findings suggest a high level of leisure-time MVPA was associated with decreased risk of disabling dementia in men."

The World Health Organization has listed dementia as a public health priority.

The Harvard Health website states: "There are three major pills for maintaining intact memory: effortful physical activity, effortful cognitive activity and social contact."

The NHS recommends older adults should do at least 150 minutes of moderate or 75 of vigorous exercise a week.

They should also reduce time spent sitting or lying down and break up long periods of not moving with some activity.

Dr. Nawada added: "Physical activity is a potential preventive factor for dementia and has been shown to have an inverse association with incidence in several epidemiological studies."

The study was published in JAMA Network Open.

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