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Could Leg Workouts Be the Key to Brain Health?


Leg day isn't just about getting a better bod—it might actually be the key to growing a bigger, better brain.

General physical fitness has always been loosely linked to better brain health (you can totally have brains and brawn), but according to a new study from King's College of London, there's a specific link between strong legs and a strong mind (get there with this strong in 7 legs workout!). Researchers followed sets of identical female twins in the U.K. over a 10-year period (by looking at twins, they were able to rule out any other genetic factors impacting brain health as people aged). The results: The twin with the greater leg power (think: the force and speed needed to do a leg press) experienced less cognitive decline over the 10-year period and overall aged better cognitively.

"There is good evidence to state that exercise helps the brain function better," says Sheena Aurora, M.D., a clinical associate professor of neurology and neurological sciences at Stanford University who was not involved with the study. Why? In part because motor learning helps other areas of the brain to function better as well, says Aurora. Also: Raising your heart rate (which happens when you work out) sends more blood to the brain, which is better for your cognitive function—especially over time.

So why legs, specifically? Although this wasn't explicitly tested, researchers hypothesize that it's simply because they're part of the largest muscle group in your body and the easiest to keep fit (you work them out just by standing or walking!).

The good news is, you have control over this connection between a sound body and sounder mind. According to the study, there's a proactive component to this association: You can up your chances of better brain health as you get older just by upping the weight on your leg presses today. So seriously, don't skip leg day. Your brain will thank you. (And don't miss these 5 new-school exercises for long, sexy legs.)


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