Home > Journals > Minerva Medica > Past Issues > Minerva Medica 2021 August;112(4) > Minerva Medica 2021 August;112(4):448-55



Publishing options
To subscribe
Submit an article
Recommend to your librarian


Publication history
Cite this article as



Minerva Medica 2021 August;112(4):448-55

DOI: 10.23736/S0026-4806.21.07542-X


language: English

Exploring the association of early life physical activity and risk of dementia: a systematic review

Francesco DELLA GATTA 1, 2 , Eleonora LACORTE 3, Elisa FABRIZI 1, Giulia REMOLI 3, Virginia CIPOLLINI 4, Fernanda TROILI 4, Nicola VANACORE 3, Franco GIUBILEI 1

1 Department of Neuroscience, Mental Health, and Sense Organs (NESMOS), Faculty of Medicine and Psychology, Sapienza University, Rome, Italy; 2 School of Doctorate, Catholic University of Valencia San Vicente Martir, Valencia, Spain; 3 Italian Institute of Health (ISS), Rome, Italy; 4 Department of Human Neuroscience, Sapienza University, Rome, Italy

INTRODUCTION: Physical activity has been included in the list of twelve modifiable risk factors for dementia, despite conflicting results from observational and controlled studies. In particular it is not clear whether physical inactivity near the time of dementia diagnosis is a consequence or cause of dementia. We review all available studies reporting the possible association between having engaged in PA before 60 years of age and the risk of dementia.
EVIDENCE ACQUISITION: We performed a systematic review based on the methodology reported in the Cochrane handbook for systematic reviews and following the PRISMA statement. Bibliographic searches were carried out on the databases PubMed, ISI Web of Science and the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. Further references were retrieved from published systematic reviews on the same topic. Included studies were assessed using the Newcastle Ottawa scale.
EVIDENCE SYNTHESIS: The bibliographic search yielded 1381 records. A total of 11 studies were included. Three of the included studies were case control studies, while the remaining 8 were cohort studies The overall quality of included studies was high. However, clinical criteria for the diagnosis of dementia, criteria to define and measure and PA and time-reference of exposure were heterogeneous, with some studies considering specific age range of exposure, and other reports dealing with more generic “adult age.”
CONCLUSIONS: This review suggests that there is insufficient evidence to conclude whether PA in early life may affect the incidence of dementia in later life. Studies in this field are very complicated and recognizing the impact of PA in early life given all the confounding factors is very difficult. Further studies are warranted. In these studies, it will be crucial to define the type, quantity and intensity of PA as well as to stratify analysis by sex, cultures and social classes.

KEY WORDS: Physical activity; Dementia; Prevention and control; Risk factors; Cognitive dysfunction

top of page