If your commitment to a regular exercise routine sometimes wanes, a new study will motivate and encourage you to keep moving. It found women with high levels of fitness during middle age have a nearly 90-percent lower likelihood of developing dementia decades later, compared to women with moderate fitness levels.
Moreover, when the highly fit women developed dementia, the onset was, on average, 11 years later than the onset in moderately fit women. Instead of manifesting the disease at age 79, they didn’t develop it until age 90.
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“These findings are exciting because it’s possible that improving people’s cardiovascular fitness in middle age could delay or even prevent them from developing dementia,” said study author Helena Hörder, PhD, of the University of Gothenburg in Gothenburg, Sweden.
Only 5% of Highly Fit Women Developed Dementia
The study began in 1968, when Swedish researchers assessed the fitness of 191 women who were between ages of 38 and 60. The team used a bicycle exercise test to measure the participants’ cardiovascular capacity and categorize them into high, moderate and low fitness levels: the categorization depended on their point of exhaustion and whether the test had to be stopped due to chest pain or high blood pressure. Women who were classified in the highly-fit group were able to endure strenuous exercise.
Over the next 44 years until 2012, the scientists evaluated the women six times for dementia, and the tests showed 44 participants developed the condition. The difference in dementia incidence among the three fitness levels was striking. Five percent of the women in the highly-fit group developed the condition, compared to 25 percent of those in the moderately-fit group and 32 percent of those in the low-fit group. The highly fit women had an 88-percent lower risk of developing dementia than the moderately fit women.
45% of Women Unable to Finish Exercise Test Developed Dementia
Among the women who were unable to complete the exercise test, 45 percent developed dementia years later. “This indicates that negative cardiovascular processes may be happening in midlife that could increase the risk of dementia much later in life,” said Hörder.
The study has two limitations. Fitness levels were only tested once, so any changes that occurred over time weren’t noted. In addition, a small number of women were involved, all of whom were from Sweden; therefore, the findings might not be applicable to other population groups, said Hörder. Despite the limitations, the results were compelling: a link exists between peak fitness in middle age and a marked reduction in dementia risk 50 years later.
As the senior author Dr. Ingmar Skoog, professor of psychiatry at the University of Gothenburg, told The New York Times, “If you start exercising, you reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease, cancer and dementia. And you get immediate gratification by feeling better.”
The study was published in the online issue of the journal Neurology.
Mary West is a natural health enthusiast, as she believes this area can profoundly enhance wellness. She is the creator of a natural healing website where she focuses on solutions to health problems that work without side effects. You can visit her site and learn more at http://www.alternativemedicinetruth.com. Ms. West is also the author of Fight Cancer Through Powerful Natural Strategies.