strong-older-woman
Exercise

Muscle Strength Linked to Cognitive Functioning

There appears to be a newly discovered factor in maintaining better cognitive functioning in older people: muscle strength, according to a new Finnish study.

The association of extensively measured upper and lower body muscle strength with cognitive function was observed, but handgrip strength was not associated with cognitive function. Cognition refers to brain functions relating to receiving, storing, processing and using information. The findings were published in European Geriatric Medicine.

The study population comprised 338 men and women with an average age of 66 years, according to a news release from the University of Eastern Finland. Their muscle strength was measured using handgrip strength, three lower body exercises such as leg extension, leg flexion and leg press and two upper body exercises such as chest press and seated row. Sum scores to depict lower body and upper body muscle strength were calculated separately, and cognitive function was assessed using a neuropsychological test battery known as CERAD with calculated total score.

Handgrip strength is relatively easy and fast to measure, and it has been widely used as a measure of muscle strength in various studies. However, this new study could not demonstrate an association between muscle strength and cognitive function when using a model based on mere handgrip strength and age. Instead, an association between muscle strength and cognitive function was observed only when sum scores depicting upper or lower body muscle strength were included in the model.

“The findings suggest that it may be justified to go beyond the handgrip and to include the upper and lower body when measuring muscle strength, as this may better reflect the association between muscle strength and cognition,” said Early Stage Researcher Heikki Pentikäinen, the first author of the article, who is currently preparing a PhD thesis on the topic for the University of Eastern Finland. She was quoted in the news release.

Exercise is known to have various health benefits, and strength training is a way for practically everyone to increase muscle mass and enhance muscle strength. However, the association of muscle strength with various aspects of cognitive function is a relatively under-researched area.