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Leg strength associated with brain health in older women

November 23, 2015
by Nicole Stempak, Associate Editor
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Older women with stronger legs have better cognitive health, according to a new study in the journal Gerontology.

Researchers King’s College London measured leg force and speed of 324 healthy female twins aged 43 to 73. The twin who had more leg power at the start of the study was found to think, learn and remember better. They also had fewer brain changes associated with ageing measured after 10 years.

“It’s compelling to see such differences in cognition and brain structure in identical twins, who had different leg power ten years before,” says Dr. Claire Steves, lead researcher and senior lecturer in twin research at King’s College London and King’s College Hospital in a university press release. “It suggests that simple lifestyle changes to boost our physical activity may help keep us both mentally and physically healthy.”

Studying non-impaired, community dwelling identical female twins allowed researchers to control for lifestyle and genetic factors, including heart health and dementia. The study did not look specifically at dementia.

The largest muscles are in the leg and can be easily exercised by walking, suggesting a potentially powerful long-term impact for healthy cognitive ageing.

Read the study here.

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