Mild cognitive impairment and physical activity in the general population: Findings from six low- and middle-income countries

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Despite the beneficial effects of physical activity (PA) for people with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) on cognition and the acknowledgement that MCI is a critical period for intervening to prevent dementia, little is known about the actual PA levels in people with MCI. This study investigates the relationship between MCI and compliance with PA recommendations.


Cross-sectional data from the World Health Organization's Study on Global Ageing and Adult Health (China, Ghana, India, Mexico, Russia, South Africa) (n = 32,715; mean age = 62.1 ± SD 15.6 years; 51.7% female) were analyzed. MCI was ascertained based on the National Institute on Aging-Alzheimer's Association recommendations. PA level was assessed by the Global Physical Activity Questionnaire. Participants were grouped into those who do and do not meet the 150 min of moderate-to-vigorous PA/week recommendation. Associations between PA and MCI were examined using multivariable logistic regressions.


The overall prevalence [95%CI] of MCI and low PA were 15.3% [14.4%–16.3%] and 22.4% [21.1%–23.7%] respectively. In the model adjusted for sociodemographic factors, MCI was associated with a 1.28 [1.11–1.48] times higher odds for low PA in the overall sample. This association was driven by the particularly strong association observed in individuals aged ≥ 65 years (odds ratio = 1.65 [1.34–2.03]). Further adjustment for behavioral and health-related factors made very little difference to the estimates obtained in the model adjusted only for sociodemographic factors.


MCI was associated with an increased odds of not meeting the recommended PA levels. If replicated in longitudinal studies, these findings will offer new targets and strategies for prevention and treatment programs in people at risk for MCI and dementia.

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