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February 2024

Friends, Fitness, and Housework May Ward Off Alzheimer’s Disease

Want a healthier brain? Move your body, tend to your home, and connect with your loved ones, new research suggests


In a study of more than 500,000 people, scientists asked questions about exercise, mental activity, and social activity. They then tracked these individuals for more than 10 years to see who might be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or similar conditions.

During that time, more than 5,000 participants developed dementia. But those who reported high levels of physical activity, housework, and visiting with friends and family had the lowest risk.

Today’s actions matter for your mind

More research is needed to understand the links. But the study authors speculate that:

  • Physical activity increases blood flow to the brain, which may help slow age-associated decline. Movement also has antioxidant effects and may delay the damage to brain cells that often leads to dementia.

  • Housework represents a type of exercise.

  • Social isolation might speed cognitive decline and increase the risk for cardiovascular disease and depression, which both influence brain function. So spending time with those closest to you may protect you.

Everyday ways to train your brain

If you’d like to reduce your risk for cognitive problems, here are some ideas. Use them to create your own brain-boosting plan.

  • Join a club—bonus points if it’s one that’s mentally engaging, such as a book club.

  • Connect with other older adults through your local Area Agency on Aging or senior center.

  • Volunteer for a cause you care about, whether it’s an animal rescue group or an Alzheimer’s advocacy organization. This also provides a sense of purpose, which may further enhance your cognitive well-being.

  • Start a walking group with neighbors. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recommends getting at least 150 minutes—that’s two and a half hours—of moderate physical activity per week. Walking with others can help you get there, while also deepening relationships.

  • Turn on your favorite tunes and dance. Music is motivating.

  • Take on housework with vigor. Choose a project like organizing a closet or pantry, assembling a new piece of furniture, or cutting the lawn using a push mower.

Pair these strategies with an overall healthy lifestyle. For instance, eat a nutritious diet and manage other health conditions. Your mind, and body, will benefit.





Online Medical Reviewer: Brian McDonough, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Stacey Wojcik, MBA, BSN, RN
Date Last Reviewed: 12/1/2022
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