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Another reason to become a workout warrior? It could lower your risk of dementia, study finds


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Photo: Stocksy/Kate-Daigneault

It seems that every day, science delivers a brand-spankin’-new reason to get a workout in. Case in point: A good sweat has been shown to improve self-control, stave off depression, and benefit your whole head (including your brain). And thanks to a 44-year-long study recently published in the journal Neurology, you now have one more reason to squeeze a workout into your iCal.

In 1968, scientists set out with one question in mind: Could a more vigorous fitness routine decrease the risk of dementia in women over a long period of time? Researchers examined 191 Swedish women between the ages of 38 and 60 and then had the participants to complete an ergometer cycling test that determined their cardiovascular fitness endurance. The women were then divided into three categories based on their “crude peak workload,” a measure of cardiovascular strength based on how much weight and resistance they could add to their bikes before experiencing fatigue. Of the participants, 59 ended up in “low fitness,” 92 “medium fitness,” and 40 “high fitness,” CNN reported.

Over the next four decades, researchers tracked the women’s health and noted who developed dementia among the three groups. By 2012, the study found 32 percent of people in the low group developed symptoms, 25 percent in the medium group, and a mere 5 percent in the high group. Most notably, the high group decreased its risk of dementia by 88 percent compared to the medium.

“The brain actually is…a highly vascularized organ…. So anything a person can do to increase their cardiovascular fitness level is likely to have positive benefits on brain health.” —Dr. Keith Fargo, director of scientific programs and outreach for the Alzheimer’s Association in Chicago

“There’s a very strong connection between cardiovascular health—so the health of your heart and your circulatory system—and the health of your brain,” Keith Fargo, PhD, director of scientific programs and outreach for the Alzheimer’s Association in Chicago, told CNN. “The reason for that is because the brain actually is what we would call a highly vascularized organ, meaning that your brain has many blood vessels…. So anything a person can do to increase their cardiovascular fitness level is likely to have positive benefits on brain health.”

While the study’s pool of participants was relatively small and more research still needs to be done across a more diverse population, the research does provide yet another boost of motivation for you to stay active. With brain benefits like these, you’ll want to sign up for a spin class ASAP. Just make sure to keep turning that resistance knob to the right.

You’ll need a pair of shoes to rock that cycling class—check out these pairs. And this is what it’s like to try Flywheel’s at-home spin bike.

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