Study: Muscular seniors have stronger brains, too

JOENSUU, Finland — People who maintain strong muscles in their senior years may also have stronger brains, a new study finds.

Researchers at the University of Eastern Finland sought to uncover whether there was a link between muscle strength, particularly the handgrip, and cognition in older adults.

Person working out
A new study finds that people who have greater muscle strength during their senior years also have greater cognitive functioning.

The team analyzed data from 168 men and 170 women who were between the ages of 57 and 78, measuring their levels of upper body strength, lower body strength, and handgrip strength.

For upper body strength measurements, researchers had participants take part in two common exercises, such as a chest press. For the lower body, three exercises, such as leg extensions, were gauged. Handgrip strength is typically measured using a dynamometer. Cognitive function was assessed using a common series of tests known as the Consortium to Establish a Registry for Alzheimer’s Disease (CERAD) neuropsychological battery.

The researchers weren’t able to find an association between handgrip strength and cognition levels, but they did make a link when it came to greater upper body or lower body strength.

“The findings suggest that it may be justified to go beyond the handgrip and to include the upper and lower body when measuring muscle strength, as this may better reflect the association between muscle strength and cognition,” says study author Heikki Pentikäinen, in a university news release.

The study is believed to be among the first to link muscle strength with cognition. One previous study had found that having stronger muscles was associated with a lower risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

The results were published in the journal European Geriatric Medicine.