Lifting weights is one of the best ways of protecting brain function, research finds.
The study found that increased muscle strength improved brain function in people with Mild Cognitive Impairment.
LIfting weights was more effective than doing brain training exercises.
Dr Yorgi Mavros, the study’s first author, said:
“What we found in this follow up study is that the improvement in cognition function was related to their muscle strength gains.
The stronger people became, the greater the benefit for their brain.”
Mild Cognitive Impairment (MCI) is diagnosed when people have age-related problems with memory and thinking, but can still live independently.
MCI is a common precursor to dementia.
For the study, the weight-lifting group worked out at least twice a week for six months.
Dr Mavros said:
“The more we can get people doing resistance training like weight lifting, the more likely we are to have a healthier ageing population
The key however is to make sure you are doing it frequently, at least twice a week, and at a high intensity so that you are maximising your strength gains.
This will give you the maximum benefit for your brain.”
Earlier studies which scanned participants’ brains showed weight training increased volume in critical areas of the brain.
Professor Maria Fiatarone Singh, study co-author, said:
“The next step now is to determine if the increases in muscle strength are also related to increases in brain size that we saw
In addition, we want to find the underlying messenger that links muscle strength, brain growth, and cognitive performance, and determine the optimal way to prescribe exercise to maximise these effects.”
Professor Perminder Sachdev, a study author, said:
“The people I meet often ask me the question: what kind of exercise should I do to protect my brain?
This study goes some way in answering this question, even though much further work remains.”
About the author
Psychologist, Jeremy Dean, PhD is the founder and author of PsyBlog. He holds a doctorate in psychology from University College London and two other advanced degrees in psychology.
He has been writing about scientific research on PsyBlog since 2004. He is also the author of the book “Making Habits, Breaking Habits” (Da Capo, 2003) and several ebooks:
- Accept Yourself: How to feel a profound sense of warmth and self-compassion
- The Anxiety Plan: 42 Strategies For Worry, Phobias, OCD and Panic
- Spark: 17 Steps That Will Boost Your Motivation For Anything
- Activate: How To Find Joy Again By Changing What You Do
The study was published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society (Mavros et al., 2016).