It’s a common question: “what is the best exercise?” And more and more research is supporting a single answer. Exercise that supports healthy muscles seems to be the best for improved aging, as well as lowering risk factors for chronic disease.
Muscle health + improved aging rate of the brain
A recent research study from King’s College London looked at how muscle health, measured by power in the legs, is associated with an improved aging rate of the brain.
300 healthy female twins participated in the study
Over 300 healthy female twins participated in the study over a 10 year period. Genetic factors that could affect cognition were controlled. Thinking, memory and learning ability were measured at the beginning and end of study, and it was seen that leg power was a more consistent predictor of cognitive health and ability than any other lifestyle factor tested.
The twin who had more leg power at the initiation of the study generally was seen to sustain this power throughout the study, and had better cognition and fewer brain changes associated with aging over the 10 years.
Other studies have shown that physical activity has a tremendous benefit to the aging process, including cardiovascular and brain health. Muscle training seems to release hormones that actually promote nerve cell growth.
Legs are the largest muscle group in the body
Since the legs are the largest muscle group in the body, it is not surprising to see that there is a specific link between their power/strength and cognitive performance. This does not necessarily mean that the stronger a person’s legs are the better their cognitive ability; there are certainly other factors that come into account, which is why this study specifically looked at female twins – so some factors related to genetics could be accounted for.
Health of the muscles
It is the health of the muscles that is the biggest indicator, and an indicator of health in these big muscle groups is certainly power/strength, but this strength would certainly need to be contextualized – what is considered diminished strength for a 6 ft tall couch potato man, might be completely normal and healthy for a 4’10 teen athlete.
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Razi Berry is the founder and publisher of the journal Naturopathic Doctor News & Review that has been in print since 2005 and the premier consumer-faced website of naturopathic medicine, NaturalPath. She is the host of The Natural Cancer Prevention Summit and The Heart Revolution-Heal, Empower and Follow Your Heart, and the popular 10 week Sugar Free Summer program. From a near death experience as a young girl that healed her failing heart, to later overcoming infertility and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Fibromyalgia though naturopathic medicine, Razi has lived the mind/body healing paradigm. Her projects uniquely capture the tradition and philosophy of naturopathy: The healing power of nature, the vital life force in every living thing and the undeniable role that science and mind/body medicine have in creating health and overcoming dis-ease. Follow Razi on Facebook at Razi Berry and join us at Love is Medicine to explore the convergence of love and health.