Stages in Human Development

Stages in Human Development

As I progress through midlife, I’ve begun to slack off on my exercise routine. With all the demands on my schedule, finding time each week to run, do sit-ups, and push around weights seems a lot less important than it did 10 years ago.However, the results of a new study have given me reason to reconsider. A study published last week shows that people who are fit at midlife have a much lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia later on in life.

The study was conducted by The Cooper Institute of Dallas, in collaboration with UT Southwestern Medical Center and the Cooper Clinic. The 24-year study followed more than 19,000 healthy men and women. The subjects completed a preventive medical exam at the Cooper Clinic when they were on average, 49 years of age.

Using Medicare records, their health was again evaluated 24 years later. After adjusting for age, smoking, diabetes, cholesterol and other health factors, researchers found that compared with those in the lowest 20 percent for fitness in midlife, those in the highest 20 percent had a 36 percent reduced risk of dementia (DeFina, 2013).

“This is a profound study that shows exercise can have long-term effects on more than our physical health,” says Laura DeFina, MD, of The Cooper Institute. “We’ve known that exercise is beneficial to brain health in the short-term. What’s unique about this study is that it demonstrates the long-term, positive effect of fitness on the brain.”

“The exercise we do in middle-age is relevant for not only how long we live, but also how well we live. This data provides insight into the value of lifelong exercise and its protection against dementia in older age,” says Jarett Berry, MD, of UT Southwestern Medical Center and a co-author on the study. “The fear of dementia in later life is real, and the possibility that exercise earlier in life can lower that risk is an important public health message.”

I think I’ll put on my tennis shoes and go hit the gym.

By guest blogger Tom Knight, Center Director, Texas AHEC East – North Central Region


    DeFina, LF et al. The association between midlife cardiorespiratory fitness levels and later-life dementia: a cohort study. Annals of Internal Medicine, 5 February, 2013.

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