Women with high physical fitness levels in middle age are 90 percent less likely than those who are moderately fit to develop dementia as they age, according to a new Swedish study. The researchers also found that when physically fit women did develop dementia, the condition occurred an average of 11 years later – at 90 instead of 79.
For the study, which involved 191 women who averaged 50 years of age, researchers at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden measured fitness levels using a standard exercise test. The women in the study exercised to the point of exhaustion, and researchers measured their peak cardiovascular capacity. Forty of the women demonstrated high fitness levels, 92 moderate, and 59 scored “low” levels of fitness.
The women were then tested for dementia six times over the next 44 years. According to the researchers, 5 percent of the highly fit women, 25 percent of the moderately fit women, and 32 percent of the women with low fitness levels developed dementia during the study period. The highly fit women were 88 percent less likely to develop dementia than the moderately fit group. Results of this study were published in Neurology, the journal of the American Academy of Neurology.