Your Healthy Family: What fitness level says about dementia risk

Posted at 2:48 PM, Jun 08, 2018
and last updated 2019-07-09 11:27:47-04

Many of us are worried about what the future holds when it comes to our chances of developing dementia.

Now, a recent study shows how fit a person is could have an impact on their risk of developing this debilitating condition.

The study looked at 191 women between the ages of 38-60. Researchers tested their physical fitness using a bicycle and separated them into groups – low fitness, medium fitness and high fitness.

The women were then followed over time for development of dementia.

James Leverenz, M.D., of Cleveland Clinic did not take part in the study, but said fitness level did play a role for women.

“What they found was that those in the high fitness group had a later onset of dementia, by about nine years compared to the low fitness group and by about five years when compared to the medium fitness group,” he said.

Dr. Leverenz said previous studies have also shown a relationship between a person’s mid-life physical activity and their risk for developing dementia.

He said studies like this show why helping people become more physically active, even as they age, is a top priority for doctors.

“The main message is that people should be physically active as much as they can be,” said Dr. Leverenz. “You don’t have to be a marathon runner, but the more physical activity you get, the more likely it is you’ll be able to fight off some of the effects of aging and dementia.”

Dr. Leverenz said much of the current research about dementia suggests that what’s good for the heart – a healthy diet, regular exercise, and keeping a healthy weight – are also good for the brain.

Complete results of the study can be found in Neurology.