Intelligence linked to physical performance in middle age, study shows

17 Aug

A study published in the Journal of Aging and Health that followed

nearly 3,000 men reveals a link between intelligence and midlife physical


doctor observing older man on treadmill
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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