Just two hours a day spent keeping the mind and body busy is as effective at warding off dementia as drug treatment, research reveals.

Simple activities such as gardening, doing crosswords or sudoku, making snacks and singing help keep the brain healthy, and even slow the course of dementia in sufferers already diagnosed with the condition.

It confirms longstanding theories that keeping the brain active helps keep it healthy.

Researchers in Bavaria trialled a two-hour therapy session, called MAKS, in nursing homes for six days a week for a year. It included gentle exercise, such as bowling or croquet, half an hour of solving puzzles in groups and 40 minutes of everyday activities like preparing a snack, simple gardening work or doing woodwork.

The impact was “at least as good as” treatment with cholinesterase inhibitors, typically prescribed to treat dementia, study author Professor Elmar Graessel said.

The sessions postponed decline in dementia patients’ cognitive function for at least a year.

After a year patients who’d taken part were still at the same point on the Alzheimer’s Disease Assessment Scale [ADAS], used to check how far the condition has advanced.

Professor Graessel said: “Additionally, the effect on their ability to perform daily tasks, as measured by the Erlanger Test of Daily Living (E-ADL), was twice as high as achieved by medication.” - Daily Mail