leg strength
Modern technology and medical research have made magnificent strides in the last decade. They have joined forces to help us live longer and even increase the quality of life as we age.

Think about all the breakthroughs in stem cell research ... DNA and gene sequencing ... advanced disease diagnosis and treatment ... and even wearable tech to measure our day-to-day health.

I think you'll agree that the advancements we've made as a society are remarkable.

But there's one crucial factor in longevity most people don't know about.

You won't see it on the news or in the latest tabloids because it's not as sexy as the "new age" discoveries above.

It wasn't developed by science or in a lab.

It can't be injected or taken in a pill.

The longevity factor I'm talking about is leg strength.

The strength of your legs has been found to be a key predictor of your longevity, both how long you will live and the quality of life as you age.

A study called the Health ABC (Health, Aging and Body Composition) was published in 2006. It measured how body composition changes can correlate with the risk of poor health outcomes.

And it provided a solid benchmark for future studies that show why we should build healthier lives from the ground up — literally!

Health ABC had over 2,000 participants, male and female, between the ages of 70 and 79 years old.

The study ran several tests over time, including consistent tests on grip strength and quadriceps strength.

Results showed that strength and mortality did not depend upon illness. Rather, illness plagued those who weren't as strong as others in the same age group.

Both strength tests proved that the weaker you were in strength, the closer you were to mortality (Newman, etc. 2006).

Another study was done on 1,280 men and women who were age 55 and older. The purpose of this study was to see if muscle mass, leg strength and fat mass were associated with physical function (Bouchard, Heroux & Janssen, 2011).

They determined that leg strength was the most important factor when it came to physical function and mortality.

Although, notice that this link is purely between strength and longevity — regardless of the amount of muscle you have.

A low and healthy body fat percentage is much more important to overall health.

Meaning ... you don't need to look like a bodybuilder to benefit from the effects of leg strength!

Intuitively, this makes perfect sense. After all, someone with more leg strength likely exercises more often and is more mobile than someone with weaker leg strength.

The benefits of exercise on overall health and longevity are endless. And new studies are showing how detrimental a sedentary lifestyle can be to your health. It can even be as bad as smoking!

Comment: Smoking gets a lot of bad press, but almost everything presented as evidence for tobacco's deleterious effects is junk science. Smoking actually has numerous health benefits; it has been linked to a decrease in risk of certain inflammatory disorders, and is protective against lung cancer, Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's.

But the benefits of leg strength go beyond just physical.

One study followed 324 healthy female twins, aged 43 to 73, for a decade. Cognitive function such as learning and memory was tested at the outset and at the conclusion of the study. Interestingly, as reported by MedicineNet.com:
"The researchers found that leg strength was a better predictor of brain health than any other lifestyle factor looked at in the study."
Generally, the twin with more leg strength at the start of the study maintained her mental abilities better ... and had fewer age-related brain changes ... than the twin with weaker legs.
"It's compelling to see such differences in cognition [thinking] and brain structure in identical twins, who had different leg power 10 years before," [lead author Claire] Steves said.

"It suggests that simple lifestyle changes to boost our physical activity may help to keep us both mentally and physically healthy."

First and foremost, making it a priority to live an active lifestyle should help you build stronger legs, make you more mobile and flexible, and even help you move better as you age.

If you want to improve your leg strength, start by hitting the gym. Compound exercises like squats and deadlifts are the best exercises to build leg strength and overall body strength.

A proper training program will always include these type of lifts or variations of them.

Not ready to hit the gym just yet? Then you might want to start walking more and building up to power-walking first.

Comment: Walking also helps us think: Walking on a regular basis has been shown to promote new connections between brain cells, prevents the usual withering of brain tissue that comes with age, increases the volume of the hippocampus (a brain region crucial for memory), and elevates levels of molecules that both stimulate the growth of new neurons and transmit messages between them.

See also:

As we age, we can lose muscle. So it's important to do what we can to prevent injury.

You can also do partial squats, leg lifts and even sit with your legs uncrossed to boost the circulation in your lower extremities.

Like many people say: "healthy body, healthy mind." To best boost the connection, consider starting with your legs!