Forget working out to get a bikini-ready body, according to new research, we should be hitting the gym to help our long-term mental health. A new study suggests that a high level of physical fitness in middle age may lower a woman’s risk of developing dementia by 90%, compared to women with a low or moderate level of fitness.
The small study spanned over four decades, starting in 1968 with 191 women and a bicycle exercise test to measure peak cardiovascular activity. Only 40 of them achieved the “highly fit” status, 92 fell into moderate and 59 were in the low fitness category. Then the women were tested for dementia six times over a 44-year span and in that time, 23% of the group developed dementia, 44 women total - but only 5% were from the high-fitness group, 25% were moderate-fitness, 32% low fitness, and 45% were unable to finish the test.
Another cool finding from the study is that among the high-fitness women who did develop dementia, the onset was an average of 9.5 years later than for women in the moderate-fitness group.
The study’s findings backup other research which shows that physical fitness is associated to better brain health. And if being more fit could help ward off dementia even longer, that sweat sesh doesn’t seem like such a bad price to pay.