Self-reported mid- to late-life physical and recreational activities: Associations with late-life cognition

Brandon E Gavett, Keith F Widaman, Cathryn McKenzie, Fransia S De Leon, Evan Fletcher, Sarah Tomaszewski Farias, Dan Mungas

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


OBJECTIVE: Physical and recreational activities are behaviors that may modify risk of late-life cognitive decline. We sought to examine the role of retrospectively self-reported midlife (age 40) physical and recreational activity engagement - and self-reported change in these activities from age 40 to initial study visit - in predicting late-life cognition.

METHOD: Data were obtained from 898 participants in a longitudinal study of cognitive aging in demographically and cognitively diverse older adults (Age: range = 49-93 years, M = 75, SD = 7.19). Self-reported physical and recreational activity participation at age 40 and at the initial study visit were quantified using the Life Experiences Assessment Form. Change in activities was modeled using latent change scores. Cognitive outcomes were obtained annually (range = 2-17 years) using the Spanish and English Neuropsychological Assessment Scales, which measure verbal episodic memory, semantic memory, visuospatial processing, and executive functioning.

RESULTS: Physical activity engagement at age 40 was strongly associated with cognitive performance in all four domains at the initial visit and with global cognitive slope. However, change in physical activities after age 40 was not associated with cognitive outcomes. In contrast, recreational activity engagement - both at age 40 and change after 40 - was predictive of cognitive intercepts and slope.

CONCLUSIONS: Retrospectively self-reported midlife physical and recreational activity engagement were strongly associated with late-life cognition - both level of performance and rate of future decline. However, the data suggest that maintenance of recreational activity engagement (e.g., writing, taking classes, reading) after age 40 is more strongly associated with late-life cognition than continued maintenance of physical activity levels.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)209-219
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of the International Neuropsychological Society : JINS
Issue number3
Early online date18 Sept 2023
Publication statusPublished - 18 Mar 2024


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