The key to a healthier brain could be in your legs–and the stronger they are the better, according to a British study. This isn’t the first time researchers have made the connection between a sharper brain and strong muscles, especially the ones in your legs. But it’s one of the few that takes into account genetic makeup as well as physical activity.
To find people with similar (or identical) genes, researchers at Kings College in London studied 324 pairs of female twins, aged 43 to 73. Instead of focusing on exercise habits, the researchers looked at leg strength (though the twins who had the sturdiest legs tended to be more active). Then they put the twins through some tests, including cognitive ones, and compared the results with those taken 10 years before.
The results: The twins with the most muscular legs showed the least amount of decline in thinking skills. This was true even when the scientists took into account fatty diets and high blood sugar and blood pressure–all risk factors in dementia.
To keep your legs strong, just become a little more active. If you can, spend more time standing (get up during TV commercials or skip the seat if you have a relatively short commute on public transportation). Increase the number of steps you take. Take a longer walk during the weekends. It’s all good–for your bod and your noggin’!