I lost my Mom a little over 10 years ago. We called her Gigi. She was beautiful in every way.
She died suddenly of a heart attack. Gone in a heartbeat, literally.
Over the past several years I’ve worked with countless older folks at preserving and rebuilding their health. I’ve often wondered what Gigi’s would have been like had she lived into her golden years.
Some recently published research has demonstrated that dementia is significantly less likely among women in midlife who enjoy a high level of fitness.
I have often pondered whether it was a blessing that she passed away so early and suddenly. I have seen firsthand the ravages that can accompany aging. Gigi was spared much of that. As a family, we too were spared from much of the pain and conflict that arises when an aging parent begins to lose their physical or cognitive health.
In an earlier essay, I enumerated some disturbing statistics about the prevalence and projected growth of Alzheimer’s and dementia. It’s a massive and disconcerting epidemic.
It might lead one to think that the loss of our mental faculties is inevitable and inescapable.
Thankfully it is not.
In fact, nearly every month scientific journals are publishing encouraging findings that begin to paint a portrait of those who have lived long and well and have happily preserved their minds and memory.
One such study out of Sweden from the journal Neurology, examined how better fitness in midlife impacted the risk of developing dementia later in life. They studied more than 1400 women with an average age of 50.
At the beginning of the prospective study in 1968, they isolated a subset of 191 of these women and tested each subject with a standard fitness test on an exercise bike. To follow up, they examined the status of their cognitive faculties several times over the ensuing years, for as many as 44 years.
The study group was stratified into three groups based on their fitness level: high, medium, and low.
Out of the full study cohort of 191, 44 women developed dementia. Researchers found that:
The cumulative incidence of dementia was 5% for women in the high fitness group, 25% for those in the medium fitness group and 32% for those in the low fitness group. Nearly half of the women (45%) who could not finish the exercise test developed dementia.
Dementia was 88% less likely among women with high fitness, compared with those with medium fitness. Women with high fitness who did develop dementia did so at an average of 11 years later than those with medium fitness.
According to these findings, the more fit a women is in midlife the more protected she is against the decline of her cognitive function in later life.
I hope that you find this as encouraging as I do. To me, it’s empowering to know that there’s something we can do in my midlife that will could make our golden years substantially richer in health and happiness.
If any of this concerns you, we’re here to help. We know that Functional Fitness training is the foundation for greater fitness and overall health, both physical and cognitive.
At MidStrong and ASB we are making Functional Fitness training safe, fun, and inclusive.
And if you reside in Westborough or the surrounding towns, we’ve got an excellent offer that can help you get started. It’s our 50/50 KickStart offer.
Click here to learn more about.
Be strong, have fun,
Paul Reilly, CSCS Owner/President