Well, we're officially declaring that (incredibly demeaning, totally pointless) chapter of unrealistic expectations for women closed. Case in point: A new study from the journal Gerontology that says meaty, muscular legs are linked to a similarly powerful mind—even later in life.
The study focused on 324 British twins, ages 43 to 73. The twins, all female, took two neuropsychological tests 10 years apart. They also took a test to measure leg explosive power (like when you slam on your car brakes really, really hard) at the beginning of the 10-year period.
The results showed that more leg power at the beginning of the study resulted in less cognitive change 10 years later (the more muscular twin actually performed 18% better on memory and cognitive tests than her less-fit sister). Brain imaging also showed differences between the fit and unfit twins, with the buffer sister having significantly more brain volume than the other.
The connection between physical fitness
and brain health isn't new—past studies have associated everything from walking to weight lifting with mind power. But many of those focused on self-reported physical activity, and let's be honest, we've all fibbed about how much cardio we've done before. This study in particular, however, focuses on physical fitness
—testing how well bodies perform because of exercise.
Strengthen muscles to help your brain
Researchers narrowed their focus to the strength of the lower legs because they contain the largest muscles in the body and can be exercised through habitual activities like standing or walking, according to a press release from King's College in London. They narrowed it even further to that of twins, to make sure the leg power measured wasn't purely genetic.
Though researchers don't know why stronger legs result in quicker minds, they believe physical activity's effect on the brain stems from hormones released by working muscles.
And the best news? If your thighs are feeling a little scrawny after reading this, you can start working on them now, to keep your wits about you 10 years from now.