More leg power is linked to better brain health
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Stronger leg muscles are linked to healthier brain ageing and cognitive function, according to research.
The study followed 324 healthy female twins from the TwinsUK volunteer registry over a 10-year period.
Researchers measured various health and lifestyle predictors.
Thinking, learning and memory were also measured at both the beginning and end of the study.
Genetic factors were controlled for via the twins’ identical genes.
The results found leg power was the best predictor of healthy cognitive ageing out of all the factors measured.
The twin with the strongest leg power at the start of the study generally had better cognitive ability and brain health ten years later.
The twin with stronger legs also maintained the most amount of grey matter in the brain.
Previous studies have shown that physical activity can have a beneficial effect on brain health during ageing.
But this study is the first to show a specific link between power (i.e. force and speed) in the lower limbs and cognitive change in a normal, healthy population.
The result makes sense when you consider that the legs contain some of the largest muscles in the body – they are of particular relevance to fitness.
Dr Claire Steves, who led the research said:
Everyone wants to know how best to keep their brain fit as they age.
Identical twins are a useful comparison, as they share many factors, such as genetics and early life, which we can’t change in adulthood.
It’s compelling to see such differences in cognition and brain structure in identical twins, who had different leg power ten years before.
It suggests that simple lifestyle changes to boost our physical activity may help to keep us both mentally and physically healthy.”
The study was published in the journal Gerontology (Steves et al., 2015).
Image credit: wikimedia
(Interested in finding out more about exercise and the brain? Spark: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain is an easy read)