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The Association Between Physical Fitness and Dementia FREE

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The full report is titled “The Association Between Midlife Cardiorespiratory Fitness Levels and Later-Life Dementia. A Cohort Study.” It is in the 5 February 2013 issue of Annals of Internal Medicine (volume 158, pages 162-168). The authors are L.F. DeFina, B.L. Willis, N.B. Radford, A. Gao, D. Leonard, W.L. Haskell, M.F. Weiner, and J.D. Berry.

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Ann Intern Med. 2013;158(3):I-36. doi:10.7326/0003-4819-158-3-201302050-00002
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What is the problem and what is known about it so far?

Dementia is the progressive loss of memory and thinking that usually affects older adults. People who are healthier and more physically fit seem to be less likely to develop dementia. However, that could be because dementia causes people to be less active and physically fit. If researchers could demonstrate an association between physical fitness earlier in life and dementia later in life, it may suggest that working toward becoming and staying physically fit at younger ages could prevent dementia later in life.

Why did the researchers do this particular study?

To assess the association between objectively measured physical fitness and dementia.

Who was studied?

19,458 healthy middle-aged people who had a treadmill exercise test as part of a preventive health clinic visit.

How was the study done?

The researchers divided the participants into those who were most and least fit, defined as the amount of time people ran on a treadmill. They then followed the participants for many years, beyond the time they reached age 65 years, to see who went on to develop dementia. The researchers then compared the number of people who had dementia among the most and least fit.

What did the researchers find?

The most fit study participants were much less likely to develop dementia than those who were the least fit.

What were the limitations of the study?

The findings may be influenced by other healthy behaviors, such as healthy eating, that are common among physically fit people. The findings of association between fitness and dementia do not suggest a specific level of physical fitness that people can achieve to prevent dementia. Participants were generally healthy and white, and the findings may not apply to other groups.

What are the implications of the study?

Physical fitness in middle age seems to be associated with a lower chance of developing dementia after age 65 years. Although the findings do not prove that fitness prevents dementia, they provide yet another reason to become or stay physically fit in middle age.





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