Psychological Medicine

Review Article

Physical activity and risk of neurodegenerative disease: a systematic review of prospective evidence

M. Hamera1 c1 and Y. Chidaa1

a1 Psychobiology Group, Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, UK

Abstract

Background The association between physical activity and risk of neurodegenerative diseases is not well established. We therefore aimed to quantify this association using meta-analytical techniques.

Method We searched Medline, the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews and Web of Science databases from 1990 to 2007 for prospective epidemiological studies of physical activity and incident dementia, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. We excluded studies of physical activity and cognitive decline without diagnosis of a neurodegenerative disease. Information on study design, participant characteristics, measurement of exposure and outcome variables, adjustment for potential confounding, and estimates of associations was abstracted independently by the two investigators.

Results We included 16 prospective studies in the overall analysis, which incorporated 163797 non-demented participants at baseline with 3219 cases at follow-up. We calculated pooled relative risk (RR) using a random effects model. The RR of dementia in the highest physical activity category compared with the lowest was 0.72 [95% confidence interval (CI) 0.60–0.86, p<0.001], for Alzheimer's, 0.55 (95% CI 0.36–0.84, p=0.006), and for Parkinson's 0.82 (95% CI 0.57–1.18, p=0.28).

Conclusions Our results suggest that physical activity is inversely associated with risk of dementia. Future studies should examine the optimal dose of physical activity to induce protection, which presently remains unclear.

(Received August 20 2007)

(Revised April 18 2008)

(Accepted April 22 2008)

(Online publication June 23 2008)

Correspondence

c1 Address for correspondence: M. Hamer, Ph.D., Department of Epidemiology and Public Health, University College London, 1–19 Torrington Place, London WC1E 6BT, UK. (Email: m.hamer@ucl.ac.uk)

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