PHYSICAL ACTIVITY MODULATES GEOGRAPHICAL VARIATIONS IN COGNITIVE AGEING: RESULTS FROM THE IRISH LONGITUDINAL STUDY ON AGEING

Abstract Ref: 
0205

Marica Cassarino, Annalisa Setti
University College Cork, Cork, Ireland

Background: Recent evidence indicates that rural individuals show poorer cognitive performance
than urban dwellers. Urban environments offer a wider range of cognitive
stimulation, and are associated with higher levels of tonic arousal. A cross-sectional association
between urban living and better performance in global cognition (Montreal
Cognitive Assessment, MoCA) has been found after controlling for individual level factors
(Cassarino, O’Sullivan, Kenny & Setti, 2015). Another study found a non-linear relationship
between land-use mix and dementia. The present study aimed to assess whether
the cognitive disadvantage of living in a rural environment may be compensated by modifiable
lifestyle factors, i.e. physical activity. We hypothesised that levels of physical activity
would modulate cognitive performance especially for rural dwellers, who most need cognitively
stimulating activities.
Methods: Cross-sectional analyses of MoCA were conducted for healthy Irish people
aged 50+ participating in Wave 1 of The Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing, in relation
to the interaction between levels of physical activity measured through the International
Physical Activity Questionnaire, and residence either in urban, suburban, or rural areas,
while controlling socio-demographic, health, and other lifestyle factors.
Results: After controlling for confounders, engaging in vigorous weekly physical
activity modulated the association between environment of residence and global cognition,
with physically active rural participants showing no differences from the urban
group in terms of MoCA scores. No interactions were found for the other
environments.
Conclusions: The results support the hypothesis that engaging in physical activity can
compensate for urban-rural differences in cognitive performance in ageing. The findings
have implications for the promotion of lifestyle initiatives tailored to the environment of
residence.
References:
1. Cassarino, M., O’Sullivan, V., Kenny, R. A., & Setti, A. (2015). Environment and
Cognitive Aging: A Cross-Sectional Study of Place of Residence and Cognitive
Performance in the Irish Longitudinal Study on Ageing. Neuropsychology, No
Pagination Specified. http://doi.org/10.1037/neu0000253