Leg Power For A Better Brain
The brain seems to age more slowly when your leg muscles are strong. This finding comes from a 10-year long twin study in the UK that looked at a number of health and lifestyle predictors that can influence brain health. The researchers from Kings College London measured thinking, learning and memory among 324 healthy female identical twins whose average age was 55 when the study began in 1999 and again at its conclusion. They found that the twin whose legs were strongest at the start was mentally sharper 10 years later and had fewer brain changes associated with aging than her twin whose legs weren't as strong. They also reported that leg strength was a better predictor of overall brain health than any other lifestyle factor they evaluated. Earlier studies have found that physical activity can have a beneficial effect on brain aging, and animal studies have shown that exercising muscles releases hormones that can encourage nerve cells to grow, the researchers noted. But they believe that this study is the first to show a specific association between the legs' force and speed and cognitive changes in normal, healthy individuals. The researchers focused on twins because their shared genetics and early life are factors that don't change in adulthood. They noted that further studies are needed to determine if their findings hold true for older individuals and men.
My take? These are very interesting findings. The report demonstrates only an association between lower limb capability and mental capacity, but suggests a possible way to protect your brain from the effects of aging - regular physical exercise to strengthen your legs. (It will also benefit the rest of your body.) Findings from several studies presented at the 2015 Alzheimer's Association International Conference also indicated that aerobic exercise might not only protect the brain from developing Alzheimer's disease but could also lead to some improvements in those already affected.