We usually think of age and family history as two of the primary risk factors for Alzheimer's disease. But muscle strength? Loss of muscle strength is common as we age, but not usually thought of as leading to a higher risk of developing Alzheimer's. In a fascinating new study, researchers found that increased muscle strength led to reduced risk of Alzheimer's disease as well as a slower rate of cognitive decline in older persons.
The study, published in the November 2009 Archives of Neurology, involved more than 900 older people without dementia at the initial (baseline) evaluation. Strength was measured in 9 muscle groups that was summarized in a composite measure of muscle strength. Participants were followed for an average of 3.6 years, and 138 people developed Alzheimer's. Even after adjustments were made for variables such as body mass index, lung function, vascular diseases, and memory at the start of the study, the findings were startling: muscle strength at baseline was associated with a 43% decrease in the risk of Alzheimer's disease.
While further studies need to be conducted to provide more convincing evidence of a true link between muscle strength and Alzheimer's risk, other benefits of strength training include improving your posture, increasing your metabolism, and strengthening your bones. So for many reasons consider doing some push-ups and getting those old hand weights out.