Puzzling as it may seem, fit legs, could mean a healthy brain for older women. According to a study, legs are better brain health indicators than the heart. The study adds to growing evidence that physical activity benefits both body and mind.
The research, spanning a decade, studied 300 twins to arrive at its initial conclusion. The link lay between the exercise a healthy mind gets, according to the King's College London team. Leg power is an indicator of sufficient exercise that in turn releases brain boosting chemicals in the body of elders.
Leg power in the 150 pairs of twin sisters aged between 43 and 73 years, was measured across the period by both speed and power of leg extension. Brain power was tested by looking at memory and mental processing skills, reports the BBC.
The twin with more leg power at the start of the study showed better cognition and fewer brain changes associated with ageing after 10 years. This was so, even when other risk factors for dementia, were included.
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. Other factors such as heart health were also important, but the link with leg strength remained even after we accounted for these."
The reason behind the body-brain physical activity is not well understood. It is also to be determined if memory improvements lead to reduced dementia risk. Every four seconds a new case of dementia is detected globally and by 2050 more than 115 million will suffer dementia.
The benefits of exercise to the brain could come from various factors like reduced insulin resistance and inflammation, and brain growth factor stimulation that release chemicals that keep brain cells healthy, help grow new blood vessels in the brain. A UCLA work in fact proved this link between exercise and growth factors enhancing new neuronal connections in the brain.
Meanwhile, a University of British Columbia study found that regular aerobic exercise like walking seems to boost the size of the hippocampus, the brain centre for memory and learning. Another Georgia University study claimed that 20 minutes of exercise improves brain information processing and memory. Researchers say an hour of walking twice a week is sufficient to keep the grey cells ticking away.