Staying active has long been touted by health experts as a way to maintain a healthy body and mind.
However, new research suggests that people in jobs that require high levels of physical activity may be at higher risk of dementia and cognitive impairment.
It is currently estimated that around 900,000 Britons suffer from dementia.
The study by the Norwegian National Center for Aging and Health, the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health and the Butler Columbia Aging Center found that people who work physically demanding jobs for long periods of time could be at higher risk of the brain-sapping disease.
The authors gave examples of physically demanding jobs including:
- Salesperson – retail and others
- nursing assistants
- nursing assistants
- Plant farmers
- Animal producers
“Continuous work in a job with moderate or high levels of occupational physical activity was associated with an increased risk of cognitive impairment, indicating the importance of developing strategies for individuals in physically demanding jobs to prevent cognitive impairment,” write the authors of the study.
They classified physically demanding jobs as those that “require significant use of the arms and legs and movement of the entire body, such as: B. Climbing, lifting, balancing, walking, bending and handling materials”.
It follows a study suggesting that spending more than 10 hours a day sitting increases your risk of dementia.
Using one of the world’s largest population-based studies of dementia – the HUNT4 70+ study – researchers examined how occupational physical activity between the ages of 33 and 65 is associated with a risk of developing dementia and mild cognitive impairment after age 70 .
They analyzed data from 7,005 participants, 902 of whom were diagnosed with dementia later in life.
Another 2,407 were diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment.
The team found that people who do physically demanding work have a 15.5 percent higher risk of developing dementia or experiencing cognitive impairment.
However, in jobs with low physical demands, the risk fell to nine percent.
The researchers found that a diagnosis of mild cognitive impairment is not necessarily followed by dementia.
They said there are “several plausible explanations” as to why people in physically demanding jobs may be at higher risk of the devastating brain disease.
“Higher occupational physical demands in later adulthood have previously been associated with smaller hippocampal volume and poorer memory performance,” the researchers said.
“Similarly, individuals who work in physically dangerous occupations or have high job demands (mental or physical) combined with low job control have been found to perform worse on cognitive tests in later life.”
The study authors said this could suggest that high occupational physical demands have “adverse effects” on brain health and cognitive function in old age, increasing the risk of impairment later in life.
Lack of time to rest and recover from these higher physical demands can also lead to “wear and tear” on the body and brain, they argued.
Professions such as nursing or sales are “often characterized by a lack of autonomy, long periods of standing, hard work, rigid working hours, stress, a higher risk of burnout and sometimes…” […] “Inconvenient working days,” they added.
Meanwhile, jobs with low physical demands could also offer workers more flexible working hours and more time for breaks and recovery.
And many jobs that don’t require intense physical activity, such as engineering, administration and teaching, may also be “more cognitively stimulating, which could contribute to more favorable cognitive development over a person’s life,” according to the study. Authors said.
Lead author Vegard Skirbekk, a professor of population and family health at Columbia Public Health, said: “Our work also illuminates the so-called physical activity paradox – the connection between leisure-time physical activity and better cognitive outcomes and how physical activity relates to work “related.” can lead to poorer cognitive outcomes.”
He noted that the preclinical phase of dementia can begin up to two decades before symptoms appear.
“Our results particularly highlight the need to monitor individuals with high levels of lifetime occupational and physical activity, as they appear to be at higher risk of developing dementia,” noted Dr. Skirbekk.
“Future research should examine how occupational physical activity and interventions to reduce occupational physical activity or technological changes that result in altered activities, in combination with other workplace characteristics, are associated with dementia and the risk of mild cognitive impairment in old age.
“This will improve our understanding of the relationship between work experience and cognitive impairment.”