- Greater upper and lower body strength was linked to better cognitive function
- Keeping the brain healthy while growing older is important, scientists warn
- The latest findings add to evidence that exercising helps stave off dementia
Going to the gym and lifting weights may prevent against dementia, new research suggests.
The Finnish study found greater upper and lower body strength was linked to better cognitive function in ageing adults.
Keeping the brain healthy while growing older is important, experts warn, as a decline in the organ’s ability to process information leads to the debilitating disease.
The latest findings add to evidence that proves the beneficial effects of exercising in staving off dementia.
The Finnish study found greater upper and lower body strength was linked to better cognitive function in ageing adults
How was the study carried out?
University of Eastern Finland researchers compared 338 men and women with an average age of 66.
Their muscle strength was measured through handgrip strength and three lower body exercises – leg extension, leg flexion and leg press.
Upper body strength was also tested through the chest press and seated row for the study published in European Geriatric Medicine.
The association of upper and lower body muscle strength with cognitive function was observed in the study.
However, handgrip strength – something previously used to measure strength – was not associated with cognitive function.
Handgrip strength is relatively easy and fast to measure, and it has been widely used as a measure of muscle strength in various studies.
Hand grip isn’t reliable
But the findings suggest that it doesn’t provide the most accurate answer in terms of overall strength, lead author Heikki Pentikäinen said.
She said measuring upper and lower body muscle strength may ‘better reflect the association between muscle strength and cognition’.
Exercise is known to have various health benefits, and strength training is a way for everyone to increase muscle mass.
However, the association of muscle strength with various aspects of cognitive function is a relatively under-researched area.
Previous studies have shown that exercising four times a week could reverse the early stages of dementia.
People with mild cognitive impairment showed significant increase in brain size when they underwent a six-month exercise programme.
Couch potatoes are just as likely to get dementia as those born with the Alzheimer’s gene, a Canadian study claimed in January.
This meant that even without any genetic risk factors, over-65s who rarely exercise are among the most likely to develop the disease.
NHS Choices expert explains all about early-onset dementia