Our ability to think on our feet, that is, to figure things out when the problem or situation is one we are unfamiliar with is called fluid intelligence.This kind of knowing is not based on having prior knowledge but on our ability to use pattern recognition, logic, and abstract thinking.
It’s been known that our ability to use fluid thinking declines with age. However, new research links this decline not to chronological age but to biological age and the amount of fat and muscle a person carries.
A study conducted by researchers from Iowa State looked at 4000 middle-aged and older adults and discovered that the greater the amount of visceral fat the steeper the decline in fluid intelligence.
The implications of the study are important for all of us who are middle-aged or older. (If you are younger, you should take note as well.) Maintaining lean muscle mass (through resistance training) and lowering visceral fat not only improves overall health as is commonly known, but it improves cognition. In other words, keeping mentally sharp is not really about doing crossword puzzles. We should be lifting weights!
We don’t know whether these findings have something to say about risks for dementia, but it seems safe to say that being strong and lean is a good thing to aim for as we age, potentially lowering our risks for diseases such as Alzheimer’s.