Strong legs for a strong brain?


An article in the BBC News, on November 10th reported that a new study from King’s College in London suggests that the stronger your legs are, the more in shape your brain is.

The study, which was published in the Journal Gerontology, looked at the leg and brain health of more than 150 pairs of twin sisters. Leg power was measured (at the start of the study) using a modified piece of gym equipment that measured both speed and power of leg extension, while brain power was measured (at both the start and the end of the study) using computerised tasks that tested memory and mental processing skills.

At the end of the study, researchers noted that the twin who had stronger legs at the beginning of the experiment also showed better cognition and less mental deterioration over a period of 10 years. They admit that it is difficult to separate leg strength from other lifestyle factors that could influence brain health, however, “Other factors such as heart health were also important, but the link with leg strength remained even after we accounted for these.”

Lead researcher Dr Claire Steves says her team believes “leg strength is a marker of the kind of physical activity that is good for your brain.” Alzheimer’s Research UK director of research said: “We know that keeping active generally can help reduce dementia risk, and it’s important to take into account strength training as well as aerobic exercise.”

In 2014, researchers at Harvard found that exercise in general proved to be good for brain health by reducing inflammation and promoting the growth of new blood cells. 

Although the report is brief, and the information that exercise is good for your brain is not new, it is an insight into strength in the legs of women and associated protection of cognitive power. Could resistance training alone be sufficient to retain brain health in women, or does a combination of resistance exercises and aerobic training confer more benefits?

Ladies, keep the squats and lunges coming!