Thursday, August 12, 2021

Physical Activity Linked to Slower Cognitive Decline in Adults With Elevated Tau Levels

Older adults who were physically active reported significantly slower cognitive decline compared with sedentary adults, reports a study published Wednesday in JAMA Network Open. The association between physical activity and cognitive function was most dramatic among adults who had elevated levels of the Alzheimer’s-associated tau protein in their blood.

“Although we know that physical activity can positively impact cognitive function, much less is understood about the role of sedentary behavior and its association with the same,” wrote Pankaja Desai, Ph.D., of Rush University Medical Center in Chicago and colleagues. “Our results … demonstrat[e] the clear difference in cognitive decline among participants with little activity, compared with those who reported low or high activity in a large, population-based sample without disease.”

Desai and colleagues looked at data from 1,159 participants (63% women and 60% African American) in the Chicago Health and Aging Project, a population-based cohort study that followed adults over 65 years of age from four Chicago communities between 1993 and 2012. The study protocol included periodic cognitive tests, blood draws, and reports by participants on their physical activity. All participants had a baseline blood sample collected and at least two global cognitive function outcome measurements over the course of the study.

The participants were divided into three physical activity groups: little (no participation in any physical activity like jogging, swimming, golf, yard work, etc.), medium (average of 71 minutes of physical activity a week), or high (average of 422 minutes of physical activity a week). Each of the three groups was then subdivided into adults with low (≤0.40 pg/mL) or high (>0.40 pg/mL) concentrations of tau in their blood.

Among adults with high concentrations of tau, those who reported medium or high physical activity had 58% and 41% slower rate of cognitive decline, respectively, compared with adults who engaged in little physical activity over the course of the study. Among adults with low tau, those with medium or high physical activity had a 2% and 27% slower rate of decline, respectively, compared with adults who engaged in little physical activity.

“Future work should focus on examining the associations between physical activity and additional biomarkers … associated with [Alzheimer’s] diagnosis both pathologically as well as clinically,” the authors wrote. “Additional research should evaluate the associations of other health behaviors and particular types of physical activity (such as aerobic or strengthening activities) and blood biomarkers with outcomes such as cognitive function and magnetic resonance imaging results. Findings may inform the development of prevention trials or interventions that are tailored to individuals with at-risk characteristics … .”

To read more on the benefits of exercise, see the Psychiatric News article “Physical Activity May Lower, Prevent Depression.”

(Image: iStock/monkeybusinessimages)

Lock in Lowest Registration Rates for APA’s Mental Health Services Conference

Register by Monday, August 16, to lock in the lowest registration rates for APA’s Mental Health Services Conference, to be held virtually on Thursday, October 14, and Friday, October 15. The meeting will feature educational programs and innovations in clinical services designed to ensure equal access to high-quality mental health care for all patients.



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