There is new evidence to suggest that increasing one’s fitness in middle age will delay, or even prevent, the onset of dementia in later years. A new study out of Sweden, published this March in the American Academy of Neurology, followed some 200 women for nearly 45 years to obtain the data.
A group of middle-aged women were asked to complete a bicycle test to failure, just once, to ascertain their level of fitness. Then, over the following decades, participants were tested for dementia six times.
Just 5 percent of women with a high level of fitness developed dementia. 25 percent of moderately fit women developed dementia, and 32 percent of the women who were judged to have a low level of fitness developed dementia. This means that the highly fit women were 88 percent less likely to dementia,
"This indicates that negative cardiovascular processes may be happening in midlife that could increase the risk of dementia much later in life," Hörder said.
While the somewhat limited study indicated an association between healthy body and healthy mind, it does not demonstrate causation. Still, it is added to the growing body of research that suggests movement is medicine.
Helena Hörder, Lena Johansson, XinXin Guo, Gunnar Grimby, Silke Kern, Svante Östling, Ingmar Skoog. Midlife cardiovascular fitness and dementia. Neurology, 2018; 10.1212/WNL.0000000000005290 DOI: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000005290