A study published in the Journal of Aging and Health that followed
nearly 3,000 men reveals a link between intelligence and midlife physical
The researchers say their findings show the importance of encouraging people of all abilities to be active through life.
Previous research suggests the better our physical performance in middle age, the
more likely we are to retain our independence and cope with everyday activities in old
age, such as carrying our shopping and getting dressed.
Researchers who study this area usually employ a number of tests – such as handgrip
strength, balance, chair rises, jumping height (a measure of leg strength), and back
strength – when measuring physical performance.
For their study, researchers at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark examined the
relationship between intelligence in early adulthood and subsequent physical
performance between the age of 48 and 56 years, in a group of 2,848 Danish men born in
1953 or 1959-61. The data came for the Copenhagen Aging and Midlife Biobank.
They found that every 10-point increase in intelligence score in early adulthood was
linked to a 0.5 kg increase in back force, a 1 cm increase in jumping height, a 0.7 kg
increase in hand-grip strength, 1.1 more chair rises in 30 seconds and 3.7% improved
balance in midlife.
Policies should encourage people of all abilities to be active through life
Rikke Hodal Meincke, first author and doctoral student at Copenhagen University’s Center for
Healthy Aging and Department of Health, says:
“Our study clearly shows that the higher intelligence score in early
adulthood, the stronger the participants’ back, legs and hands are in midlife. Their
balance is also better.”
She and her colleagues conclude their findings could be important for drawing up
and implementing initiatives to get people from all walks of life, regardless of
ability, to stay physically active throughout life.
However, Hodal Meincke urges more studies be done to find the reasons behind the
links they found. Other researchers have, for example, suggested that childhood
factors, exercise, health status and socioeconomic background may also affect physical
performance in later life.
One explanation, she suggests, could be that more intelligent people find it
easier to understand health information – such as advice on lifestyle and exercise –
and put it into practice.
Last month, Medical News Today reported the findings of three studies that
showed not only is it likely that physical exercise
reduces risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and vascular dementia – it may also
serve as an effective treatment.
For example, one of the studies found that aerobic exercise reduces levels of tau
protein in the brain, one of the hallmarks of Alzheimer’s disease. There are currently
no approved drugs that rival such an effect, the researchers noted.
Written by Catharine Paddock PhD
Copyright: Medical News Today
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