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Leg strength today can predict future strength of mind


Last updated 11/5/2018 at 9:09am

Members use the new exercise equipment on the patio at the Fallbrook Senior Center, including from left, Peter Krupczak, Dick Timboe, Ray Totah, Jo Ziemer, Dorothy Arnold, Jini Moeller and Carl Arnold.

Jack Schirner

Special to the Village News

How strong will a mind be 10 years from now? Can people strengthen their minds or is it better to not know and just take their chances?

People probably already know that a healthy habit of regular reading can improve their vocabulary and help make them smarter and increase their brain power. Just like having a regular workout exercises their cardiovascular system, regular reading improves memory function by giving the brain a good workout.

Reading enhances connectivity in the brain and improves brain function. It has been proven in multiple studies, including a recent one by the Fisher Center for Alzheimer's Research Foundation, that said mental stimulation like reading and playing cards or games can help protect memory and thinking skills, especially with age.

People may enjoy unwinding with a movie at the end of the day, but it does very little to enhance their brain. Instead, regular reading is good for mind, body and soul.

But did people also know that the power of their legs can predict the strength of their mind? Just like the lyrics of an old song said, "The ankle bone connected to the shin bone, the shin bone connected to the knee bone," and so forth, it has now been scientifically proven that the strength of the lower legs are directly connected to the strength of a person's mind. The strength of their legs today can predict the strength of their mind 10 years down the road.

A 10-year study by Kings College London concluded that leg strength is strongly linked with healthier brain aging. Their findings suggested that simply walking more to improve leg force and speed could help maintain brain function as people age. The results of their study were published November 2015 in the journal, Gerontology.

The study included 324 healthy female twins, aged 43 to 73. The thinking, learning and memory skills of each of the twins were tested at the start and end of the 10-year study. The researchers found that leg strength was a better predictor of brain health than any other lifestyle factor looked at in the study.

Generally, the twin with more leg strength at the start of the study maintained her mental abilities better and had fewer age-related brain changes than the twin with weaker legs. The study suggested that simple lifestyle changes to boost physical activity may help to keep people both mentally and physically healthy. Additional studies are now needed to see if the connection exists for males as well.

On that note, the exercise patio and new equipment is available free of charge to members of the Fallbrook Senior Center. To participate, people must be a senior center member who is 50 years old or better to use the equipment, but membership is only $15 per calendar year. They have seven stationary bicycles, two treadmills, a stationery walker and a leg press available from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m., five days a week.

Fallbrook Senior Center members and Fallbrook Chamber of Commerce members participate in a ribbon-cutting for the center's exercise room, Sept. 11.

To use the equipment alone with no other exercisers present, participants must obtain and wear an alert lanyard that is available in the office. The alert button on the lanyard can be used to summon help in the event of an emergency. A person who pedals on a stationary bicycle at a speed of 12 miles per hour for 20 minutes would have ridden the equivalent of about 4 miles. If they eventually increased their speed to about 25 mph, they would have ridden the equivalent of about 10 miles in those same 20 minutes.

As proven by the British study, the more people can strengthen their legs using one of the bicycles, the treadmills or the leg press on the exercise patio, the more likely they will be to have a strong, healthy mind 10 years from now. More likely, they will still be a vibrant, active member of the community.

Jack Schirner is president of the Fallbrook Senior Center board of directors.


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