Physical leisure activities and their role in preventing dementia: a systematic review


  • Cindy Stern BHSc(Hons) PhD Candidate,

    Corresponding author
    1. The National Evidence-based Aged Care Unit (NEBACU) of the Joanna Briggs Institute,
    2. School of Population Health and Clinical Practice, The University of Adelaide, and
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  • Rie Konno RN BNurs MNurs PhD

    1. School of Population Health and Clinical Practice, The University of Adelaide, and
    2. The Joanna Briggs Institute, Adelaide, South Australia, Australia
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Cindy Stern, NEBACU, Joanna Briggs Institute, Royal Adelaide Hospital, North Terrace, Adelaide, SA 5000, Australia. Email:


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.