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In Women, Early Life Activity Cuts Cognitive Impairment Risk

Last Updated: July 01, 2010.

Women who have been physically active at any point in their lives -- but especially during the teenage years -- are at lower risk of developing cognitive impairment in late life than women who have been inactive, according to research published online June 30 in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

THURSDAY, July 1 (HealthDay News) -- Women who have been physically active at any point in their lives -- but especially during the teenage years -- are at lower risk of developing cognitive impairment in late life than women who have been inactive, according to research published online June 30 in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Laura Middleton, Ph.D., of Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center in Toronto, and colleagues analyzed data on 9,344 women aged 65 and older. The women had reported physical activity during teenage years, at age 30, at age 50, and in late life, and had undergone cognitive evaluation using the Mini-Mental State Examination. The association between physical activity at each age and risk of cognitive impairment (adjusted for medical, demographic, and lifestyle factors) was assessed.

The researchers found that the physically active women had less cognitive impairment in late life than inactive women: active in teenage years versus inactive, 8.5 versus 16.7 percent; active at age 30, 8.9 versus 12.0 percent; active at age 50, 8.5 versus 13.1 percent; and active in late life, 8.2 versus 15.9 percent. When the age groups were analyzed together, teenage physical activity was most strongly associated with reduced risk of cognitive impairment (odds ratio, 0.73). Women who only became physically active at a later time still had lower risk than those who remained inactive.

"Women who reported being physically active at any point over the life course, especially as teenagers, had a lower likelihood of cognitive impairment in late life. Interventions should promote physical activity early in life and throughout the life course," the authors write.

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