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Exercise may lower women's risk of dementia later in life

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From the age of five, my older brother and I were required by our parents to play a sport. Initially, I opted for tennis. But when my brother started bringing home soccer trophies, sibling rivalry got the best of me and I switched to soccer. I continued playing through college.

So I was interested to read about research published today in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society linking exercise in adolescence with a lower risk of cognitive impairment later in life. In the study, researchers asked more than 9,300 American women over the age of 65 about their exercise habits before the age of 18, at 30, at 50 and late in life. They found:

When physical activity measures for all four ages were entered into a single model and adjusted for variables such as age, education, marital status, diabetes, hypertension, depressive symptoms, smoking, and BMI, only teenage physical activity status remained significantly associated with cognitive performance in old age...

...Women who were physically inactive at teenage but became physically active at age 30 and age 50 had significantly reduced odds of cognitive impairment relative to those who remained physically inactive. In contrast, being physically active at age 30 and age 50 was not significantly associated with rates of cognitive impairment in those women who were already physically active at teenage.

Researchers suggested the link between teenage physical activity and reduced risk of cognitive impairment later in life may have something to do with the brain's ability to change and develop new circuitry.

Previously: Power walking plus "Plants vs. Zombies" may help protect against memory loss
Photo by Steve Steakley

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