London: A new study shows that physically-fit middle-aged women are 90 percent less likely to develop dementia as compared to those who were moderately fit.
When the highly fit women did develop dementia, they developed the disease an average of 11 years later than those women who were moderately fit.
Dr Helena Horder from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden said, "These findings are exciting because it's possible that improving people's cardiovascular fitness in middle age could delay or even prevent them from developing dementia."
For the study, around 191 women with an average age of 50 took a bicycle exercise test until they were exhausted to measure their peak cardiovascular capacity.
They were tested for dementia six times.
The results showed five percent of the highly fit women developed dementia, compared to 25 percent of moderately fit women and 32 percent of the women with low fitness.
The highly fit women were 88 percent less likely to develop dementia than the moderately fit women.
Among the women who had to stop the exercise test due to problems, 45 percent developed dementia decades later.
Horder said,"This indicates that negative cardiovascular processes may be happening in midlife that could increase the risk of dementia much later in life."
She added,"More research is needed to see if improved fitness could have a positive effect on the risk of dementia and also to look at when during a lifetime a high fitness level is most important."
The study was published in the journal Neurology.
(With IANS inputs)