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Self-Reported Fitness Level May Predict Risk of Dementia

Self-Reported Fitness Level May Predict Risk of Dementia An innovative study out of Finland suggests an individual’s impression of their level of fitness in midlife can reveal a person’s future risk of dementia.

Researchers followed 3,559 adults for 30 years, and found that a simple question about self-rated physical fitness in midlife may reveal individuals who are at an increased risk of developing dementia.

Investigators discovered that those who reported poor self-rated physical fitness in midlife (at the average age of 50 years), were four times more likely to get dementia during the next three decades compared to those with good self-rated physical fitness.

“Previous research has shown that self-rated health is a strong indicator of adverse health events. This is the first large population-based study investigating associations between self-rated physical fitness during the three decades from midlife to later life and dementia risk,” said postdoctoral researcher Dr. Jenni Kulmala.

The association between poor self-rated physical fitness and dementia was most pronounced among noncarriers of the apolipoprotein E ε4 allele, that is, people who did not have a strong genetic susceptibility for dementia.

This suggests that people who are not prone to dementia can reduce their lifetime risk by staying in shape.

Interestingly, a strong association was also observed among people with chronic disease.

“Chronic conditions independently increase the dementia risk. Furthermore, if a person additionally feels that his or her physical fitness is poor, the risk is even higher. In terms of dementia prevention, maintaining good physical fitness seems to be especially important for people with chronic diseases,” Kulmala says.

Poor self-rated fitness is known to be affected by lifestyle factors such as physical inactivity, poor mental well-being, lack of social connections, lower education, high body mass index and smoking.

Perceived poor physical fitness, therefore, integrates several unfavorable aspects of lifestyle that have all been previously linked to increased dementia risk.

Since the perception of poor physical fitness is most likely affected by different factors for different people, researchers encourage those who rate their fitness as poor to think about the factors behind this perception.

“Increasing physical and social activity, making better dietary choices, or quitting smoking, for example, could change the rating into more positive.

“Individual choices that make you feel physically better may substantially decrease your future risk of developing dementia,” Kulmala says.

Source: Academy of Finland

Woman jogging photo by shutterstock.

Self-Reported Fitness Level May Predict Risk of Dementia

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2018). Self-Reported Fitness Level May Predict Risk of Dementia. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 23, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Aug 2018 (Originally: 27 Feb 2014)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Aug 2018
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