Most of us know the health benefits that are as a result from weightlifting including strengthening your heart, improving metabolism, building muscle tissue, regressing obesity and increasing endurance. But did you know that lifting can actually help your brain?
Besides fighting depression, weightlifting may also be helping your mind by slowing age-related shrinking of some parts of our brains. Nobody wants shrinkage. This exciting discovery was found in a new study that was just published in The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society on October 12, 2015.
When humans age, our body loses capacity to do things that were once easy, lifting a certain amount of weight, running at a high speed and even memory functions. Our muscles and our brain shrink and get weaker. Previous studies suggested that regular, moderate aerobic exercise such as walking may slow the deterioration of the brain.
By the time you are a late middle-aged person, most of us will have already begun to develop holes in our brains because of aging. These lesions can be found in the brain’s white matter, which is the “material that connects and passes messages between different brain regions.” Over time these holes begin to grow larger and multiply, which affects cognitive abilities.
Teresa Liu-Ambrose, a professor of physical therapy and director of the Aging, Mobility, and Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, wanted to find out if other kinds of exercise would deter the deterioration of the brain.
To test this idea, the professor and her colleagues gathered a large group of generally healthy women between the ages of 65 and 75 who already were enrolled in a brain health study that Liu-Ambrose was conducting.
The women were given brain scans. After the results of the scan were available, the scientists focused on 54 of the women, because their scans showed existing white matter lesions.
The New York Times explains how the participants were tested:
Some began a supervised, once-weekly program of light upper- and lower-body weight training. A second group undertook the same weight-training routine but twice per week. And the third group, acting as a control, started a twice-weekly regimen of stretching and balance training.
All of the women continued their assigned exercise routines for a year. At the end of that time, their brains were scanned again and their walking ability re-assessed.
The results were alternately sobering and stirring. The women in the control group, who had concentrated on balance and flexibility, showed worrying progression in the number and size of the lesions in their white matter and in the slowing of their gaits.
So did the women who had weight trained once per week.
But those who had lifted weights twice per week displayed significantly less shrinkage and tattering of their white matter than the other women. Their lesions had grown and multiplied somewhat, but not nearly as much.
They also walked more quickly and smoothly than the women in the other two groups.
“Exercise, including weight training, clearly has a benefit for the brain,” Dr. Liu-Ambrose said. “However we are just really now gaining an appreciation for how impactful exercise can be.”
Just by going to the gym twice per week and lifting the 10-Lbs barbels, these old coffin-dodgers had significant benefits. So imagine the benefits that your noggin could receive by hitting the gym 4-5 times a week and actually lifting more weight than a gallon of milk.