Hope & Healing: The UF Health Blog

Strong legs linked to brawny brain

Doing crossword puzzles, taking cod liver oil supplements and generally staying young at heart have all been heralded by the health community as keys to warding off dementia and mental deficiencies later in life. A new study published in the journal Gerontology shows that maintaining muscular legs well into late adulthood is linked with a stronger brain, too.

And good news: it doesn’t take much to keep legs toned. Leg strength is the byproduct of living an active, healthy lifestyle, like walking often and taking the stairs. Leg strength was also a better indicator of brain health than any other lifestyle factor researchers looked at in the study. They followed the health habits of more than 300 sets of female twins between the ages of 43 to 73 for more than 10 years and found that the one with stronger legs at the beginning of the study enjoyed stronger mental abilities and suffered fewer age-related brain changes compared with her twin.

More research is necessary to nail down the link between leg strength and mental vitality, but it’s not news that physical activity can fend off the onset of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. As bodies age, it might mean getting creative and thinking outside the box. Replace an activity that proves too difficult, such as running, with a similar one that still makes you feel alive and well. Better yet, join up with a friend — research shows that people who feel connected to others are more likely to thrive in their senior years than those who are closed off socially. Whether it’s walking with a friend, meeting up for coffee once a week, joining a club or volunteering in your community, social strength is vital for mental vivacity, too.

Staying young at heart means moving your body to keep your mind in play.

Discover more healthy living tips on our Health in a Heartbeat pocast.

take the stairs instead of the elevator.

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