Legs and Mental Agility

Did you know that you legs reveal more about your mental agility than your brain does?

The sturdier your legs the healthier your brain is.

If you want to stay mentally sharp all the way to your nineties, then get up and get moving! Run, walk, dance! Put your book down and use your legs. A lot!

We all know that physical activity is good for us. Researchers have confirmed the benefits of exercise, showing it regulates our blood pressure, our hormones, our metabolism and more. And we believe it because when we exercise we feel the difference. We feel better almost right away. Sweaty and tired, but less stressed, and more satisfied. Exercising on a regular basis is a great habit to develop. It keeps us physically fit and helps us manage our daily stress. But can exercise makes us smarter? Can exercise improve our mental agility? can it make us better thinkers? Can it help improve our memory?

Yes! Exercise can make us smarter! Scientists tell us that people who exercise, keep their cognitive skills strong. They stay smart as they age.  Hold on, you may say, studies have limitations. What if some people are born smart? Maybe they were gifted with more robust brain capacities? What if their genes and their home environment encouraged studying and also encouraged physical exercise?

That is why scientists love conducting studies with twins. So they can eliminate those variables. Typically twins share the same early home environment and many genes. If they are identical twins, all their genes are the same.

For this study Dr. Claire Steves who is a senior lecturer at King’s College in London, England and her colleagues worked with twins. They searched the TwinUK registry and selected 162 healthy, middle-aged women with their twin sisters.

These twin pairs10 years previously, had completed extensive examinations of their memory and thinking abilities, and had multiple assessments recording their metabolic health and their detailed muscle power, measuring in detail muscles’ force and speed.

Soon the scientists started focusing on the muscle strength of their legs. Even though their leg strength was identical when they were born, somewhere along the decades there were physical changes. One may have had a more sedentary life than the other. One may have exercised less often than the other and was healthy but had weaker leg muscles. 

If one twin had stronger leg power than the other 10 years before, she tended to be a much better thinker now, the study showed. How much better?

About 18 percent better on memory and other cognitive tests than her leg-weaker sister. Brain scans revealed that she also displayed significantly more brain volume and fewer “empty spaces in the brain” than her weaker sister, Dr. Steves said.

This is great news! 

By building muscles we can makes us feel good, look more attractive, and get smarter, all at the same time! Let’s do it!

Wishing you strong legs!


P.S. The source for this article is: “Brawn and Brains” by Gretchen Reynolds. The New York Times, November 22, 2015.