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Women who are older but have strong legs will do better when it comes to ageing of the brain, shows a study of more than 300 twins.
Researchers at King’s College in London showed that leg strength is a good marker of whether a person is getting enough exercise. In turn these levels of exercise have a strong link to brain health.
The study, published in the journal Gerontology, suggests that exercise releases chemicals into the brain that help to boost cognitive power in the elderly. Scientists tracked the health of over 15o pairs of twins aged between 43 and 73 (at the beginning of the study). Leg power was measured at the start of the study using a specially adapted gym machine. Brain power was then assessed using computer-based tasks that tested both memory and mental processing skills.
10 years later at the end of the study, the brain tests were repeated. The twin with greater leg power (and thus an assumption of greater overall fitness) had better cognitive power than the weaker sibling, even with other lifestyle factors that might usually increase chances of dementia.
Alzheimer’s Society director of research Dr Doug Brown said the study added to the growing evidence that physical activity could help look after the brain as well as the body.
“However, we still don’t fully understand how this relationship works and how we can maximise the benefit,” he said.
Lead researcher Dr Claire Steves said: “When it came to cognitive ageing, leg strength was the strongest factor that had an impact in our study.