A study of nearly half a million people has revealed that muscular strength is an indication of how healthy our brains are.

Dr Joseph Firth, an Honorary Research Fellow at NICM Health Research Institute at Western Sydney University, crunched the numbers using data from 475,397 participants from all around the U.K. The new study showed that on average, stronger people performed better across every test of brain functioning used.

Tests included reaction speed, logical problem solving, and multiple different tests of memory.

The study shows the relationships were consistently strong in both people aged under 55 and those aged over 55. “When taking multiple factors into account such as age, gender, body-weight and education, our study confirms that people who are stronger do indeed tend to have better functioning brains,” said Dr Firth.

The study, published in Schizophrenia Bulletin, also showed that maximal hand-grip was strongly correlated with both visual memory and reaction time in over one thousand people with psychotic disorders. He said: “We can see there is a clear connection between muscular strength and brain health. But really, what we need now, are more studies to test if we can actually make our brains healthier by doing things which make our muscles stronger – such as weight training.” He added: “These sorts of interventions, such as weight training, could be particularly beneficial for people with mental health conditions.”

“Our research has shown that the connections between muscular strength and brain functioning also exist in people experiencing schizophrenia, major depression and bipolar disorder – all of which can interfere with regular brain functioning. This shows the strong correlation that weight training exercises could actually improve both the physical and mental functioning of people with these conditions.”