For older people, strong legs equal a healthier brain

Researchers have observed a ‘striking positive relationship’ between strong legs and brain structure. The study, which was carried out on 324 pairs of female twins over the age of 55 over 10 years, found that leg strength is more closely linked to cognitive function than any other lifestyle factor they tested.

The study, by researchers at King’s College London, used twins because they have the same genes, and so differences between them can be more accurately accounted for. The results have been published in the journal Gerontology.

Although it is difficult to separate leg strength from other fitness factors, the researchers say this is the first study of its kind to show a specific correlation between leg strength and brain ageing.

The study’s lead author, Dr Claire Steves, said: ‘It’s compelling to see such differences in cognition and brain structure in identical twins, who had different leg power 10 years before. It suggests that simple lifestyle changes to boost our physical activity may help to keep us both mentally and physically healthy.’

Although they say more research is needed to prove it, the researchers behind the study believe that exercise releases chemicals in the body that can be beneficial to the brains of older people.