Study shows skiers less likely to be diagnosed with depression and vascular dementia

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For reducing the risk of developing dementia, previous studies have indicated that physical activity may be beneficial.

In a recent study, however, a group of researchers at Lund University and Uppsala University looked at midlife physical activity for lowering the risk of vascular dementia (VaD), Alzheimer’s disease (AD), and depression.

According to the findings, as published in Alzheimer’s Research & Therapy, physical activity in midlife was associated with a lower risk of vascular dementia and depression, but not Alzheimer’s disease, as suggested in prior studies.

“Physical activity might reduce the risk of developing dementia. However, it is still unclear whether the protective effect differs depending on the subtype of dementia,” the study’s co-authors wrote.

“We aimed to investigate if midlife physical activity affects the development of vascular dementia (VaD) and Alzheimer’s disease (AD) differently in two large study populations with different designs.”

The results were reached by examining a group of an estimated 197,000 skiers taking part in the Swedish Vasaloppet marathon and a control group of similar quantity.

“Using a prospective observational design, we studied whether long-distance skiers of the Swedish Vasaloppet exhibited reduced incidence of VaD or AD compared to matched individuals from the general population during 21 years of follow-up,” the findings stated.

“We studied the association between self-reported physical activity, stated twice 5 years apart, and incident VaD and AD in 20,639 participants in the Swedish population-based Malmo Diet and Cancer Study during 18 years of follow-up.”

Of the group of Vasaloppet skiers, a nearly 50 percent lower risk of developing vascular dementia was observed compared to the control group. But, interestingly, the physical activity had no beneficiary effects for Alzheimer’s disease.

After a follow-up two decades later, researchers found that the group of Vasaloppet skiers were less likely to have been diagnosed with depression, compared to the control group.

“Our results indicate that physical activity in midlife is associated with lower incidence of VaD,” the study’s co-authors concluded. “Using three different study designs, we found no significant association between physical activity and subsequent development of AD.”