Maintaining physically and mentally active life in middle age reduces the threat of developing dementia decades later, researchers in Sweden say.

The research, published in the journal Neurology, reveals that being active several times per week can have a big payoff later in life. Activities like playing instruments, reading, singing, gardening, doing needlework, walking, gardening, attending religious services, bowling or biking make a significant difference in lessening the dementia risk later in life.

‘The results indicate that these activities in middle age may play a role in preventing dementia in old age and preserving cognitive health,’ says Jenna Najar from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden. ‘It’s exciting as these are activities people can incorporate into their lives pretty easily and without a lot of expense.’

Findings showed females that had a high level of mental activities had 46 per cent less possibility of developing Alzheimer’s disease and 34 per cent lower chances of developing dementia overall compared to the women with the low level of mental activities.

[Neck scans, genetic tests and apps are being developed that could predict your risk before you show any signs of dementia]

The findings reveal that starting to exercise just in senior years is not enough for your brain to gain from it, but physical and mental exercise should be practised throughout your life to prevent neurodegenerative disease later in life.