Weight Train Your Brain

Brain MRIWeight Train Your Brain

I first began weight training when I was in the ninth grade. As a sprinter on my high school’s track team, I knew that the more muscle mass I had, the faster my finishing times would be.

Throughout most of my twenties I continued this practice, but when my children came and my “free time, me-time” dwindled, my decade-long practice of weight lifting slipped away. By the time I returned to the gym (in my early 40’s), my muscles showcased the lack of attention I had given them. They had diminished in size and power. It was time to “bulk up” again for the sake of strength and protection against osteoporosis.

This January I’ll turn 50. And now, in addition to concerns about weakening muscles and bones, I have added to that list a concern about a weakening mind. You see, both my mother and her mother had dementia, beginning in their early 60’s. As far as it depends upon me, this is not the road I intend to take.

So you can imagine my excitement when I read a recent study published* which demonstrated a significant increase in thinking skills and memory within a population of—get this—70 to 80 year old women with mild cognitive impairment who had been assigned to strength train on a twice-weekly basis, for a period of six-months.

Beyond better test-taking results, these women’s brains, when scanned, showed improved brain activity while performing complex tasks, providing hard evidence that new brain cell networks had, indeed, been established. Wowza! Pass me some hand weights, pronto!

Whether you choose to use free weights, machines, or the weight of your own body lifted against gravity, resistance training is a win (MUSCLE)-win (BONE)-win (BRAIN) form of exercise.

Who knew? Now you do!

*Published in the Journal of American Medical Association’s Archives of Internal Medicine, April 23, 2012.

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