Older people with stronger leg muscles are more likely to have active, healthy brains, according to a new study.
Research carried out by doctors at King's College London and published in the journal Gerontology saw the health of 324 female twins with an average age of 55 examined over the ten-year period from 1999 to 2009.
By monitoring twins, scientists were able to directly compare the health and strength of people from the same gene pool to see how their different lifestyles affected their wellbeing in old age.
Participants' leg power was measured using a pedal-pushing machine and it was found that the twin with the more active mind was better able to complete the leg exercises without too much struggle.
Previous research has shown that there is a link between physical activity and brain power, with many believing that regular exercise strengthens both the mind and the body.
This new study adds further weight to this theory, finding that older women who did frequent leg exercises could boost their brain power and thinking ability over the course of the research period.
Twin research lecturer Dr Claire Steves commented: "It's compelling to see such differences in cognition and brain structure in identical twins, who had different leg power ten years before. It suggests that simple lifestyle changes to boost our physical activity may help to keep us both mentally and physically healthy."
It is believed these changes to the brain are due to stimulation of the nerves, as well as improved blood circulation and enhanced immune function being triggered by exercise.
Overall, it was found that leg power was the most influential lifestyle factor in altering mental function among women aged 50 and above.
What's more, taking part in regular exercises such as these could help to stave off degenerative conditions that adversely affect the brain, such as dementia, Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease.
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