Physical Fitness and Cognitive Discipline May Increase Risk of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis

Cognitive and physical fitness may play a role in the development of ALS.

An individual’s IQ, stress resilience, physical fitness, and body mass index (BMI) in young adulthood may potentially affect the risk of developing amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).

ALS, also known and Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. The average lifespan is 2 to 5 years.

For the study, researchers gathered information from more than 1.8 million Swedish men, 439 of whom had developed ALS. After analysis, they found that individuals with high levels of physical fitness tended to have an elevated risk of developing ALS before 45-years-old.

Individuals with a BMI ≥25 were found to have a lower risk of developing ALS at all ages compared to those with BMI <25. When examining IQs, researchers saw there was an increased risk of ALS at age 56 and older.

Individuals with high levels of stress resilience had a lower risk of ALS at 55-years-old and younger. The findings were published in the European Journal of Neurology.

“Male ALS patients seem to have a particular profile in terms of cognitive and physical fitness,” said lead study author Elisa Longinetti. “Since our analysis was restricted to males it would be interesting to know if these findings were generalizable to females.”