Latest News » How weight lifting can slow effects of aging on brain

According to a recent study, twice weekly resistance training could slow the effects of aging on brain health.

Brain health is possibly one of the top concerns for aging adults, and the secret to maintaining a healthier brain could be weight lifting. According to a recent study from the University of British Columbia (UBC) published in Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, twice weekly resistance training can help slow significant brain aging in women.

To find the effects of this resistance training on brain health, The Aging, Mobility and Cognitive Neuroscience Lab at UBC studied 155 relatively healthy women ages 65 to 75 and compared the amount of lesions on the white matter on their brains, which acts as a communication hub between different parts of the brain. As we age, white matter lesions can grow and affect important cognitive functions.

The research team at UBC separated the women into three groups. The first group completed two sessions of resistance training a week, while the second only did it once. The third group, the control, instead completed one balance and stretching exercise routine once per week. After a year of continuing this schedule, the first group not only demonstrated improved gait and muscle strength but also had less white matter lesion progressions compared to the other two groups.

In an interview with the New York Times, the UBC lab's director Teresa Liu-Ambrose explained that further research is required to discover the actual link between weight lifting and improved brain health, but she theorized that the brain and muscles react to aging in the same way, and strengthened muscles could potentially provide the brain with some sort of stimulant that slows white matter lesions. What she has concluded thus far, though, is that anyone in this age group concerned about brain aging should take note of how often they are required to complete weight lifting workouts in order to experience these effects: about twice or more a week. Workouts once a week didn't affect the growth of white matter lesions.

While this study looked more specifically at older women and resistance training, another recent study examined how weight lifting improves memory in men and women. The Georgia Institute of Technology found that a weight lifting workout as short as 20 minutes can improve long-term memory by 10 percent. According to the study, exercising releases the stress hormone norepinephrine, which plays a key role in memory functions, and higher levels of it were found in participants' saliva samples.

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