In a Swedish long-term study, women with very good physical fitness in middle age had an almost 90 percent lower risk of developing dementia, such as Alzheimer’s disease, in old age.
This study is a motivation to overcome physical activity, even if the weather is not so radiant or enticing the couch: women who have high physical fitness in middle age reduce their risk of developing dementia decades later, by 90 percent – compared to women with only moderate, medium fitness. This is the result of a study by the University of Gothenburg in Sweden, which has now been published in the online edition of the journal Neurology.
When physically very fit women were diagnosed with dementia, on average eleven years later than women with only modest fitness, for example at the age of 90 instead of 79.
“These results are exciting because it is possible to delay or completely prevent the onset of dementia by improving midlife fitness,” study author Helena Hörder said in a statement from the American Academy of Neurology. However, she also emphasizes that the study only shows an association between the extent of fitness and the risk of dementia, but does not provide any direct evidence of a clear cause-and-effect relationship. But more research is needed for that.
Study over 44 years
The study evaluated data from 191 women who had already passed an ergometer test 44 years ago. Forty-four of these women were diagnosed with dementia during the period: the group of very fit women accounted for only five percent, those of middle fitness women twenty-five percent, and those with low fitness 32 percent.
High fitness meant a peak performance on the ergometer of 120 watts or higher, the category “low fitness” was defined with a maximum output of 80 watts.
Among those women who had to stop regular physical training because of health problems, they developed 45 percent dementia over the next few decades.
“This indicates that negative processes in the cardiovascular system, which occur in middle age, the dementia risk in later age greatly increase,” says Hörder.