Say what?! Women with stronger legs have healthier brains?

By November 16, 2015 No Comments

King’s College London did a bit of an experiment:

  1. First they recruited 324 female twins with an average age of 55 years.
  2. They did some tests on leg power and brain function.
  3. 10 years later they repeated the tests and found that the twin with the stronger legs showed less signs of cognitive ageing over 10 years.

The report concludes that ‘interventions targeted to improve leg power in the long term may help reach a universal goal of healthy cognitive ageing.’*

I can therefore assume that by dedicating the majority of my time to increasing my leg power for the purpose of cycling, I am in-fact also making a long term investment in the health of my brain! Excellent!

Now, I have always ridden a bike so can claim a relatively good level of brain-power. However, a good test of this theory will be to see if my brain has changed since I ditched my job and started to ride my bike more?

I have been jobless and fully engaged in increasing leg power since August – that’s 4 whole months. So, am I reaping the benefits of a healthier brain yet? To help me answer this question I took an online ‘Healthy Brain Test‘ and got a promising result of ‘IDEAL’. Phew!

I took the test again and pretended it was me 4 months ago when I was working full-time in London and riding my bike less. My brain health regressed from Ideal to ‘GOOD’. That’s actually quite amazing. In just 4 months my brain has got healthier as my legs have got stronger.

I can’t help but wonder if the brain-ageing/leg-strength correlation works for the other 50% of the population?

Well. Let’s take Lee as an example. He may have very strong legs but does this mean he has a healthy brain?

In the absence of anything scientific, a comparison comes to mind:

  • If Lee is unable to ride his bike for more than a day he can behave irrationally. He can become stressed  and grumpy. Research shows that getting stressed actually reduces the size of the brain.
  • If Lee has ridden his bike he is lovely, thoughtful and relaxed (hopefully increasing the size of his brain!)

(To be honest, the same is true with me –  if I haven’t ridden my bike for more than a day I also behave irrationally and become stressed and emotional. If I’ve ridden my bike I am much more angelic.)

So it seems Kings College are onto something and riding a bicycle can not only give you a healthy body, but also give you a healthy mind. Hurrah for bicycles!

*Those with super strong legs may want to read the full report from Kings College London, ‘Kicking back Cognitive Ageing: Leg Power Predicts Cognitive Ageing after Ten Years in Older Female Twins’.

*Those with equally strong legs who can’t be bothered with all the big words can read a summary on Total Women’s Cycling.

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