2016 is here! With a new year comes new life resolutions, and fitness is always an important goal in our lives. When it comes to working out, however, people sometimes lack the motivation to work on their legs and instead focus on more popular exercises that stimulate upper-body strength such as the bench press. Well, in addition to currently known benefits of high lower-body strength, new research has provided another incentive to not skip leg day: having strong legs may promote a strong brain later on in life.
A recently published study in the UK compiled fitness data on a large number of twins from the national UK registry and charted their physiological progress over a 10-year interval. Long story short, the researchers found a positive relationship between muscle fitness, measured in leg power, and gray brain matter, which is found in brain regions involved with memory, cognition, and other sophisticated functions. Essentially, even within pairs of twins, the ones who exercised more and had sturdier legs were found to be better cognitive thinkers later on in their golden years.
Although the study does not focus on how muscular fitness in the leg regions could affect brain health, it raises the hypothesis that the cause may be through a common non-genetic biological mechanism that is responsible for aging in both the neuromuscular and brain regions. This means that exercising your legs may stimulate the release of biochemicals that also strengthen your brain.
One claim the research can make with high confidence is that these findings should apply for everyone, regardless of genetic disposition, environmental factors, or socioeconomic factors. The researchers ensured that the parameters for the study did not include any confounding factors which may skew or invalidate the accuracy of the leg-brain health relationship, hence the usage of twins for their subject sample. Therefore, people who exercise and maintain healthy lower-body strength in general—and not just people blessed with “good genes”—will be taking better care of their brains in the future.
Image Source: Kactus
Our responsibilities with school, work, or life overall are strong mental stimulants for our brains, and sometimes they can be more tiring than normal. However, whether it’s a light jog or a 30-minute session on the bicycle, a simple workout for your legs and the rest of your body can be the remedy your brain needs to stay sharp and strong. That’s definitely a no-brainer.
Feature Image Source: brain by TZA