Over the past decade, modern medicine and technology have made remarkable strides in extending the human lifespan.
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.
However, there’s one crucial key to longevity most people don’t know about that I want to share with you today.
You won’t see it on the news or in the latest tabloids because it’s not as sexy as the breakthroughs listed above.
This key to longevity wasn’t developed in a lab and it can’t be injected or taken as a pill.
What I’m talking about is leg strength.
The strength of your legs has been found to be a very strong predictor of your longevity, both how long you will live and the quality of life as you age.
A study using the Health ABC (Health, Aging and Body Composition) measures how body composition changes can correlate with the risk of poor health outcomes. [R]
The findings provide 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.
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. [R]
They determined that leg strength was the most important factor when it came to physical function and mortality.
An important note – 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.
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 then 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 types 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.
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.