The single habit that makes you brawny and brainy

There’s a common misconception that brains and brawn are mutually exclusive…

If you’re built like a muscle man, you’re probably not that smart. And if you’ve got the IQ of Einstein, you’re probably scrawny.

But this couldn’t be further from the truth… especially as you get older.

Because the fact is, a well-developed brain and a muscular body both come from the same daily habit — exercise.

Of course, most people don’t exercise enough as they get older. That’s one reason aging is associated with a rapid loss of both brain power and muscle mass.

But, the good news is, since exercise boosts brains and brawn, you can tackle both issues simultaneously… and science proves it.

More muscle means a better brain

In their latest study, researchers from the University of Eastern Finland determined that older men and women who had better upper and lower body strength also had better brain function.

The study included 338 men and women who were an average of 66 years old. Researchers tested their strength by having them perform a variety of exercises, including lower body exercises like leg extension, leg flexion and leg press and upper body exercises like chest press and seated row. They also used a neurological test to gauge cognitive function. And guess what they found…

The stronger these men and women were, the more adept their brain was at receiving, storing, processing and using information. So it may be time to head to the weight room for some strength (and brain) training…

But if you’re not into weight lifting, don’t worry. There are other options for boosting your muscle and mental mass…

Building muscle with bodyweight

A lot of people don’t like lifting weights. If you’re one of them, you can build and maintain muscle mass using the best “weight” of all — your body.

Bodyweight exercises that help build muscle include squats, pushups, lunges and planks. Running and walking will also help you build muscle in your lower body.

Whether you’re using weight or not, you should try progressive resistance training (PRT). Harvard doctors say that’s the most effective way to build muscle mass. PRT basically means you gradually make your workout longer and harder as you get stronger.

So, for example, when you notice your workouts are getting easier, you can increase the amount of weight you’re lifting, while still doing the same number of reps and sets. Or you could keep lifting the same amount of weight and increase the number of reps or sets. If you’re using your bodyweight to build muscle, you would gradually increase the number of reps and sets in your workout.

Whatever you do, make sure to squeeze some strength training in every week. The health of your muscles and your mind depends on it!

Related: How to get heavy-weight results lifting light weights


  1. Greater muscle strength – better cognitive function for older people.” — MedicalXpress. Retrieved June 28, 2017.
  2. Pentikäinen, et al. “Muscle strength and cognition in ageing men and women: The DR’s EXTRA study.” — European Geriatric Medicine, 2017.
  3. “How to build muscle and strength without lifting weights.” Men’s Fitness. Retrieved June 28, 2017.
  4. Preserve your muscle mass.” — Harvard Health Publications. Retrieved June 28, 2017.
  5. Progressive Resistance.” — Retrieved June 28, 2017.
Jenny Smiechowski

By Jenny Smiechowski

Jenny Smiechowski is a Chicago-based freelance writer who specializes in health, nutrition and the environment. Her work has appeared in online and print publications like Chicagoland Gardening magazine, Organic Lifestyle Magazine, BetterLife Magazine,, and