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Exercise and Dementia for Women

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The relationship between exercise and dementia in women:

A Swedish study of 191 women found that those with the highest fitness levels when first assessed had just a five per cent chance of developing dementia in subsequent decades. This Swedish study of 191 women checked their fitness levels and then tracked them for 44 years. Participants were measured for their cardiovascular activity on exercise bikes.

Today, researchers have discovered an abundance of useful medicinal applications. This study shows that women who exercise into their 50s are five times less likely to develop dementia. This long term research shows that women who are fit at 50 are five times less likely to get dementia!

The study by the University of Gothenburg, published online by the journal Neurology, found that those with the highest fitness levels when first assessed had just a five per cent chance of developing dementia in subsequent decades. This compared with rates of 25 per cent among those who performed moderately. Rates were even worse among those with low fitness and among those so unfit they could not complete the tests.

Doctor Helena Horder, from the University of Gothenburg, said: “It’s possible that improving people’s cardiovascular fitness in middle age could delay or even prevent them from developing dementia”

Overall, those who dropped out of the tests had dementia rates of 45 per cent in later life. When highly fit women developed the disease, it came on average 11 years later than among those with moderate levels of fitness – at the age of 90 instead of 79.

For the study, 191 women with an average age of 50 took a bicycle exercise test until they were exhausted, to measure their peak cardiovascular capacity. The average peak workload was measured at 103 watts.

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.

A total of 59 women were in the low fitness category, defined as a peak workload of 80 watts or less, or having their exercise tests stopped because of high blood pressure, chest pain or other cardiovascular problems.

Over the next 44 years, the women were tested for dementia six times and during that time 44 of them developed dementia.

Five per cent of the highly fit women developed dementia, compared with 25 per cent of moderately fit women and 32 per cent of the women with low fitness.

Doctor David Reynolds, of Alzheimer’s Research UK, said: “By working with participants over many years, this study has highlighted how fitness in mid-life can help predict dementia risk years later. While studies like this can’t definitively show cause and effect, it adds to research suggesting that middle age is the key time for people to take steps to promote their brain health.”

Reynolds said boosting exercise did not have to mean major exertion – just fitting in exercise to a normal routine, like a jog or a brisk walk with friends. He suggested the best way to maintain good brain health was to “eat a balanced diet, maintain a healthy weight, not smoke, and keep blood pressure and cholesterol in check”

*excerpt from The Calgary Herald

Talk to one of our experienced Physiotherapists on how to get you started on your exercise routine without injuring yourself. Call us at 403-282-8050


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