Exercise: Activity and Mental Health in Women
Reported July 25, 2010
People who are physically active appear to be at lower risk for cognitive
impairment late in life, and for women, a new study suggests, physical activity
during the teenage years may provide the greatest benefit.
The study used data about 9,395 women 65 and older, most of them white, who
participated in a multicenter study of osteoporotic fractures. They were asked
whether they had been physically active on a regular basis during their teenage
years and at ages 30, 50 and later. Their cognitive function was also assessed.
Those who had been active regularly at any age were at lower risk for impairment
in later life, but the greatest benefit was for those who had been active in
their teens. Only 8.5 percent of those active during adolescence were
cognitively impaired later on, compared with 16.7 percent of those who had been
inactive teenagers. After adjusting for differences between the groups and risk
factors like diabetes, researchers concluded that physical activity during the
teenage years was associated with a 35 percent lower risk for cognitive
impairment later in life.
The study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.
“People often separate the body and mind, and forget that physical activity is
actually controlled by the brain,” said Laura E. Middleton, the study’s lead
author and a postdoctoral fellow at the Heart and Stroke Foundation Center for
Stroke Recovery at Sunnybrook Health Sciences Center in Toronto. “A large
portion of the brain is dedicated toward coordinating and controlling movement.”