You know that the health of your body is linked to the health of your brain. A healthy cardiovascular system and well-functioning digestive system are critical to a sharp memory. But what you may not realize is that the strength of your muscles is also important.
That’s right, the condition of your arm and leg muscles have more to do with how quickly you can recall your grocery list or a new friend’s name than you ever realized.
Here’s the surprising story and how you can use it to boost your memory and focus your thinking.
Studies show that when your bones and muscles are functioning better, they send signals to the neurons in your brain that could spell the difference between sharpening your memory and recall or developing Alzheimer’s disease.
What’s more, when scientists took a closer look at which muscles are more important to memory, they made an interesting discovery. It’s information you can use to keep your brain working at full capacity and dodge memory loss as you age.
Strong Hands And Fast Feet Sharpen Memory
A 12-year study that analyzed the health records of nearly 500,000 people in England shows that the folks who maintained the strongest hand grip and the fastest walking pace had the lowest risk of developing dementia during the research.
In contrast, those with the weakest grips and the slowest walking speed were most in danger of succumbing to Alzheimer’s disease and other types of brain-damaging dementia. Individually, either having a faster walking pace or a strong hand grip reduced dementia risk. But the combination of both was the strongest indicator of a better chance for keeping dementia away. So, the researchers conclude that these combined measurements represent a powerful diagnostic tool and “maintaining both high hand grip strength and fast walking pace may be a more comprehensive strategy for preventing dementia risk.”1
Added to that, other research has revealed a powerful connection between changes in brain structure and the types of physical activity we maintain as we age.
Physical Activity Triggers New Brain Cells
For example, researchers at the University of Illinois discovered that people who maintain a higher level of physical fitness maintain a higher level of structural fitness in parts of their hippocampus, an important memory center in the brain. Using a brain scan known as elastography, the research team demonstrated that staying fit endows microstructures in the hippocampus with increased elastic integrity that improves memory.2
Along with that evidence, laboratory tests in Italy show that performing weight-bearing exercise with your legs sends signals to the brain that encourage the production of healthier neurons and help keep the brain and nervous system functioning better.3
According to these Italian researchers, when you are overly sedentary and sit for too long you make it difficult for your brain to make new neurons.
“It is no accident that we are meant to be active: to walk, run, crouch to sit, and use our leg muscles to lift things,” says researcher Raffaella Adami, PhD. “Neurological health is not a one-way street with the brain telling the muscles ‘lift,’ ‘walk,’ and so on.”
The Importance Of Vitamin D For Muscles And Memory
In addition to using regular exercise to keep your muscles stronger and your brain healthier, you should also make sure you’re getting enough vitamin D.
A study in Brazil demonstrates that if you let your body grow deficient in vitamin D, you increase your risk of muscle weakness as you age by a whopping 78 percent!4
In this test, researchers tracked more than 3,200 people for more than four years, measured their vitamin D levels, and tested their muscle strength to see if, during those four years, they developed dynapenia, a loss of muscle strength linked to aging. Those lowest in vitamin D were most likely to become significantly weaker.
“It’s necessary to explain to people that they risk losing muscle strength if they don’t get enough vitamin D,” says researcher Tiago da Silva Alexandre, PhD. “They need to expose themselves to the sun, eat food rich in vitamin D or take a supplement, and do resistance training exercises to maintain muscle strength.”
I couldn’t agree more. We’ve long written about the importance of vitamin D for everything from fighting cancer to protecting your immune system. In my view, a vitamin D supplement is necessary for just about everyone.
This research on muscle strength and memory fits right in with a long list of studies that show how exercise is good for your body and your brain. Doing things like keeping physically fit and making sure you get plenty of muscle-boosting and memory-boosting nutrients such as vitamin D is about the best insurance you can get to ensure your brain will remain sharp, clear and focused and your memory won’t let you down at any age.