Fitness in Midlife May Help Fend Off Dementia
Being physically fit in midlife may reduce a woman’s risk for dementia.
In 1968, Swedish researchers evaluated the cardiovascular fitness of 191 women ages 38 to 60, testing their endurance with an ergometer cycling test. Then they examined them periodically through 2012. Over the years, 44 women developed dementia.
They categorized the women into three fitness groups based on peak workload in their cycling tests: low, medium and high. The incidence of all-cause dementia was 32 percent in the low fitness group, 25 percent for the medium, and 5 percent among those with a high fitness level.
The average age at dementia was 11 years older in the high-fitness group than in the medium fitness group. Compared with medium fitness, high fitness decreased the risk of dementia by 88 percent.
The study, in Neurology, controlled for many variables, including smoking, drinking, blood pressure and cholesterol, and the follow-up was very long. But the sample was small and the study is observational, and the authors draw no conclusions about cause and effect.
Still, the senior author, Dr. Ingmar Skoog, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Gothenburg, said that women should get moving for many reasons.
“If you start exercising,” he said, “you reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease, cancer and dementia. And you get immediate gratification by feeling better.”