There is some truth in the saying ‘healthy body, healthy mind’, researchers have found.
How physically strong someone is in middle-age can predict how healthy their brains are. People with a stronger hand grip are better at problem-solving, memory tests and reasoning, and have faster reaction times, a study found.
A database of more than 475,000 people showed those with more muscle strength in their hands appeared to have better brains.
The research, led by the University of Manchester, suggests exercise could be a good way to boost brainpower.
Previous findings showed that people with a less impressive hand grip also have more degradation of white matter – the cells which act like cables to link up brain regions.
The latest study found people with a stronger grip could solve more logic problems in two minutes and remember more numbers from a list, as well as reacting more quickly to visual stimuli.Lead author Dr Joseph Firth, an honorary research fellow at the University of Manchester, said: ‘We can see there is a clear connection between muscular strength and brain health. But what we need now are more studies to test if we can actually make our brains healthier by doing things which make our muscles stronger – such as weight-training.’
A weak grip in older people, measured using a hydraulic grip measurement machine, has been linked to a higher risk of falls, frailty and broken bones.
It is better than blood pressure for predicting someone’s risk of heart problems, previous studies have shown.
But while evidence also links hand grip and brainpower, previous research has involved mostly older people.
The latest findings, published in the journal Schizophrenia Bulletin, show that hand grip can predict the mental abilities in people aged 40 to 55, as well as those over 55.