Could there be a handy new solution for improving cognitive health? Maybe, say U.K. researchers who found that people with significant grip strength tend to have healthier brains.
In this large study, grip-strength test results for 475,397 participants aged 37–73 were compared against various cognitive measures, such as reaction time, visual memory, number memory, prospective memory and reasoning. The information came from the U.K. Biobank. Each study participant was required to undergo grip-strength tests on both hands using a hydraulic hand dynamometer at a U.K. Biobank assessment center. Participants then underwent a 15-minute computerized assessment of each of the five cognitive parameters.
Data analysis showed that grip strength was positively and significantly associated with each of the cognitive measures. Grip strength also had a positive and significant association with visual memory and reaction time among 1,162 additional subjects with schizophrenia.
So, can training designed to increase grip strength lead to healthier brains?
The study authors aren’t sure and suggest that further investigation is warranted to find the answer. However, they do say hitting the weight room is not a bad idea— especially for anyone with cognitive impairments.
“This raises the strong possibility that weight training exercises could actually improve both the physical and mental functioning of people with these conditions,” said study author Joseph Firth, PhD, research fellow at Western Sydney University. The study appeared in Schizophrenia Bulletin (2018; doi.org/10.1093/schbul/sby034).