Exercise drastically cuts odds of women developing dementia, study finds

Exercise drastically cuts odds of women developing dementia, study finds

A new study strongly confirms this idea, reporting that women who are physically fit are much less likely do develop dementia - and when they do, they develop it much later in life (on average, at age 90, compared to age 79 for moderately fit women).

"Some of it may be the indirect effects of control in cardiovascular risk factors", Dr. Narula said.

"Systematic reviews and meta-analyses of observational studies constantly link physical activity to preserved cognitive functioning and decreased risk for dementia,"Helena Hörder, PhD, from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, and colleagues wrote".

Those who were physically fit during their middle ages were almost 90 percent less likely to develop dementia. The findings were published today (March 14) in the journal Neurology. "These studies are limited by reliance on self-reported physical activity and not objectively assessed fitness".

While there is strong data showing that having low fitness is unhealthy for the heart and brain, "I was very surprised that high fitness was so protective", Horder says, "and that so few developed dementia in the high fitness group".

"We need to see research that builds on findings like this and drives progress towards practical, evidence-based strategies that could help people reduce their risk of dementia".

A total of 40 women met the criteria for a high fitness level, or 120 watts or higher, while 92 women were in the medium fitness category. Another 93 women were in the medium fitness category, while 59 women were in the low fitness category, defined as peak workload below 80 watts (or unable to complete the test due to high blood pressure or other physical problems).

By 2012, 44 of these women had been diagnosed with some form of dementia, typically Alzheimer's disease.

Importantly, the study found the highly fit women were 88% less likely to develop dementia than the moderately fit ones.

Swedish researchers over a 44 year period conducted a study entitled 'Prospective Population Study of Women in Göteborg.' More than 1400 women took part between the ages of 38-60. Also, the women's fitness level was measured only once, so any changes in fitness over time were not captured.