Summary: Researchers will explore how light physical activities like walking can affect cognition in older adults at risk for Alzheimer’s or related dementias. Unlike previous studies that focused on the total amount of light activity, the research will examine day-to-day variations in light physical activity.
Participants aged 60+ will wear activity trackers and fill out daily surveys to monitor stress, sleep, and social factors. The study aims to identify modifiable behaviors that can minimize the risk of Alzheimer’s for a broad population of older adults.
The research will focus on the day-to-day variability of light physical activity and its association with cognitive function in older adults at higher risk for Alzheimer’s.
Participants will wear activity trackers for 30 days, filling out daily surveys to monitor other variables such as stress, sleep, and social engagements.
This is the first study to explore both the volume and variation of light physical activity’s impact on cognition for at-risk older adults, with attention to variables like sex, age, and ethnicity.
Source: Arnold School of Public Health
Jason Yang has been awarded nearly $400,000 from the National Institute on Aging to explore the role of lifestyle physical activity (light movements, walking) in cognition among insufficiently active older adults with higher risks for Alzheimer’s or related dementias.
The exercise science assistant professor will use the two-year R21 grant to help determine if frequent and regular engagement in lifestyle physical activity over time may benefit cognitive function for this population.
A nationwide problem
“The escalating incidence of Alzheimer’s disease and related dementias places a tremendous economic burden on society and families, making up the largest health care cost expenditure in the U.S.,” Yang says.
“We still don’t have an effective cure for treating these conditions but non-pharmacological strategies, such as physical activity, hold promise for sustaining cognition and reducing the risk of developing brain diseases.”
These prior studies have focused on the total amount of light-intensity physical activity (e.g., steps in a day) and have not looked at the day-to-day variability (or stability) of light physical activity and its association with brain health.
This variation in lifestyle physical activity presents an opportunity for more achievable behavioral change that becomes part of a daily lifestyle.
If favorable findings are observed, public health researchers and professionals can promote and amplify the benefits for cognitive health through enhancing consistency but not intensity of physical activity in daily life.
With this study, Yang and his team will recruit ethnically diverse older adults (ages 60+) who are insufficiently active and have higher risks for developing Alzheimer’s or related dementias.
While wearing an activity tracker for 30 days, each participant will complete daily surveys to assess stress, sleep and social engagements – all factors that influence older adults’ physical activity and cognition on a given day.
After the one-month monitoring period, the participants will complete cognitive measures at three follow-up occasions.
“This is the first study of its kind to look at the intersection of both volume and variation of light physical activity on cognition for at-risk older adults,” Yang says.
“We’ll also be investigating whether sex, age, and race/ethnicity differences play a role in these patterns and relationships.
“Our goal is to identify achievable lifestyle health behaviors that can be used in boarder older adult populations to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and related dementias.”
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