Previous research has suggested that physical activity may help reduce the risk of developing dementia.
In a recent study, however, researchers from Lund University and Uppsala University examined the relationship between midlife physical activity and the risk reduction 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 decreased risk of vascular dementia and depression, but not Alzheimer’s disease.
“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 emphasized in their findings.
“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 size.
“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,” the authors explained.
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 beneficial effects on 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 authors concluded. “Using three different study designs, we found no significant association between physical activity and subsequent development of AD.”