People with better physical shape are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease

More physically fit people are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than less physically fit people, according to a preliminary study published today, February 27, 2022, which will be presented at 74e Annual meeting will be held in person in Seattle, April 2-7, 2022 and virtually, April 24-26, 2022.

An exciting finding from this study is that as people’s physical condition improved, their risk of Alzheimer’s disease decreased – this was not an all-or-nothing proposition. This way, people can work towards making gradual changes and improvements in their physical fitness and hopefully this will be associated with a related decrease in their risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease years later.”


Edward Zamrini, MD, Study Author, Washington VA Medical Center in Washington, DC, and Fellow, American Academy of Neurology

The study involved 649,605 military veterans in the Veterans Health Administration database with an average age of 61 who were followed for an average of nine years. They did not have Alzheimer’s disease at the start of the study.

The researchers determined the cardiorespiratory fitness of the participants. Cardiorespiratory fitness is a measure of your body’s ability to transport oxygen to your muscles and the ability of your muscles to absorb oxygen during exercise.

The participants were divided into five groups, from least fit to most fit. Fitness levels were determined by participants’ performance on a treadmill test. This test measures exercise capacity, the greatest amount of physical exertion a person can withstand. For middle-aged and older people, the highest level of fitness can be achieved by brisk walking most days of the week for two and a half hours or more per week.

The group with the lowest fitness level developed Alzheimer’s disease at a rate of 9.5 cases per 1,000 person-years, compared to 6.4 cases per 1,000 person-years for the most fit group. form. Person-years take into account the number of people participating in a study as well as the time spent on the study. The case rate decreased as fitness level increased, with a rate of 8.5 for the second least fit group, 7.4 for the middle group and 7.2 for the second fittest group. form.

When the researchers adjusted for other factors that may affect Alzheimer’s risk, they found that people in the fittest group were 33% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease than those in the least fit group. in shape. The second fittest group was 26% less likely to develop the disease, while the middle group was 20% less likely and those in the second least fit group were 13% less likely to develop the disease than those in the lowest group. less fit.

“The idea that you can reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease simply by increasing your activity is very promising, especially since there are no adequate treatments to prevent or halt the progression of the disease,” said said Zamrini. “We hope to develop a simple scale that can be individualized so people can see the benefits that even incremental improvements in fitness can bring.”

A limitation of the study was that the participants were predominantly white men, so the results may not be generalizable to other populations.

The study was supported by the National Institute on Aging, National Institutes of Health, US Department of Veterans Affairs, Washington DC VA Medical Center and George Washington University.

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