Teenage physical activity reduces risk of cognitive impairment in later life

June 30, 2010

Women who are physically active at any point over the life course (teenage, age 30, age 50, late life) have lower risk of cognitive impairment in late-life compared to those who are inactive, but teenage physical activity appears to be most important. This is the key finding of a study of over nine thousand women published today in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

There is growing evidence to suggest that people who are physically active in mid- and late life have lower chance of and more minor forms of in old age. However, there is a poorer understanding of the importance of early life physical activity and the relative importance of physical activity at different ages. Researchers led by Laura Middleton, PhD, of Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Canada, compared the physical activity at teenage, age 30, age 50, and late life against cognition of 9,344 women from Maryland, Minnesota, Oregon and Pennsylvania to investigate the effectiveness of activity at different life stages.

Of the participants, 15.5%, 29.7%, 28.1%, and 21.1% reported being physically inactive at teenage, at 30 years, at 50 years, and in late life respectively; the increase in cognitive impairment for those who were inactive was between 50% and 100% at each time point. 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, , , smoking, and BMI, only teenage physical activity status remained significantly associated with cognitive performance in old age.

"Our study shows that women who are regularly physically active at any age have lower risk of cognitive impairment than those who are inactive but that being physically active at teenage is most important in preventing cognitive impairment," said Middleton.

The researchers also found that 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.

Middleton added, "As a result, to minimize the risk of dementia, physical activity should be encouraged from early life. Not to be without hope, people who were inactive at teenage can reduce their risk of cognitive impairment by becoming active in later life."

The researchers concluded that the mechanisms by which physical activity across the life course is related to late life cognition are likely to be multi-factorial. There is evidence to suggest that physical activity has a positive effect on brain plasticity and cognition and in addition, physical activity reduces the rates and severity of vascular risk factors, such as hypertension, obesity, and type II diabetes, which are each associated with increased risk of cognitive impairment.

"Low physical activity levels in today's youth may mean increased dementia rates in the future. Dementia prevention programs and other health promotion programs encouraging should target people starting at very young ages, not just in mid- and late life," said Middleton.

More information: Laura E Middleton, Deborah E Barnes, Li-Yung Lui, and Kristine Yaffe; Physical Activity Over the Life Course and Its Association with Cognitive Performance and Impairment in Old Age; The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, July 2010; DOI: 10.1111/j.1532-5415.2010.02903.x

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Changes in young people's sexual practices over the last 20 years revealed

November 20, 2017
Published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, the study describes changes in young people's sexual practices using nationally-representative data from the National Surveys of Sexual Attitudes and Lifestyles (Natsal), the ...

Motorcycle crashes cause five times as many deaths as car accidents, six times the health costs

November 20, 2017
Motorcycle accidents are costly in terms of lives and health care costs. Compared with car accidents, motorcycle accidents cause 3 times the injuries, 6 times the medical costs and 5 times the deaths, found new research in ...

Dog ownership linked to lower mortality

November 17, 2017
A team of Swedish scientists have used national registries of more than 3.4 million Swedes aged 40 to 80 to study the association between dog ownership and cardiovascular health. Their study shows that dog owners had a lower ...

New shoe makes running 4 percent easier, 2-hour marathon possible, study shows

November 17, 2017
Eleven days after Boulder-born Shalane Flanagan won the New York City Marathon in new state-of-the-art racing flats known as "4%s," University of Colorado Boulder researchers have published the study that inspired the shoes' ...

Vaping while pregnant could cause craniofacial birth defects, study shows

November 16, 2017
Using e-cigarettes during pregnancy could cause birth defects of the oral cavity and face, according to a recent Virginia Commonwealth University study.

Study: For older women, every movement matters

November 16, 2017
Folding your laundry or doing the dishes might not be the most enjoyable parts of your day. But simple activities like these may help prolong your life, according to the findings of a new study in older women led by the University ...

1 comment

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Ethelred
not rated yet Jun 30, 2010
rorybrad30 engaged in:

Spam Spam Spam Spam Spam
Spammitty Spam Wonderful Spam

Ethelred

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.