Aim To synthesise the best available evidence concerning the role of physical leisure activities in preventing dementia among older adults.
Methods Studies containing adults aged 60 years and older with or without a clinical diagnosis of dementia who did or did not participate in physical leisure activities were considered. Activities were those that required active movement of the body such as gardening or playing sports, which were not for occupation-related purposes nor activities of daily living. Experimental and observational studies in the English language were targeted; there was no date restriction.
Results A total of 17 epidemiological studies were included in the review. The evidence was equivocal regarding the relationship between participation in physical activities during midlife and later life and the prevention of dementia.
Conclusion Participating in physical activities during middle and later adult life can be neither refuted nor recommended to prevent the onset of dementia. Engaging in some physical activities (i.e. gardening, walking) appears to be more beneficial than engaging in other activities.