Physical activity in teens insures women against mental ill-health

Toronto: Women, who are physically active as a teenager or in mid and later life, face lower risk of cognitive impairment in late-life compared to those who are inactive, says a new study of over 9,000 women.

There is growing evidence to suggest that such people have lower chance of dementia and more minor forms of cognitive impairment in old age.

However, there is a poorer understanding of the importance of early life physical activity and the relative importance of physical activity at different ages.

Researchers led by Laura Middleton, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre, Canada, compared the physical activity at teenage, age 30, age 50, and late life against cognition of 9,344 women from Maryland, Minnesota, Oregon and Pennsylvania.

Of the participants, 15.5 percent, 29.7 percent, 28.1 percent and 21.1 percent respectively reported being physically inactive at teenage, at 30 years, at 50 years, and in late life.

The increase in cognitive impairment for those who were inactive was between 50 percent and 100 percent at each time point.

When physical activity measures for all four ages were entered into a single model and adjusted for variables such as age, education, marital status, diabetes, hypertension, depressive symptoms, smoking, and BMI, only teenage physical activity status remained significantly associated with cognitive performance in old age.

"Our study shows that women who are regularly physically active at any age have lower risk of cognitive impairment than those who are inactive but that being physically active at teenage is most important in preventing cognitive impairment," said Middleton.

The researchers also found that women who were physically inactive at teenage but became physically active at age 30 and age 50 had significantly reduced odds of cognitive impairment relative to those who remained physically inactive.

Conversely, being physically active at age 30 and age 50 was not significantly associated with rates of cognitive impairment in those women who were already physically active at teenage, says a Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre release.

Middleton added: "As a result, to minimise the risk of dementia, physical activity should be encouraged from early life. Not to be without hope, people who were inactive at teenage can reduce their risk of cognitive impairment by becoming active in later life."


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