Exercises with weights strengthen muscles and the brain
Exercising with weights can not only strengthen the muscles, it also seems to improve cognitive functions. Researchers have now found that weight training or resistance training can improve people's brain function. This also applies to people with mild cognitive impairment.
The University of Sydney scientists found that weight training improves muscles but also cognitive skills in the brain. The doctors published the results of their study in the journal "Journal of the American Geriatrics Society".
Positive effects of muscle growth
We usually associate weight lifting with muscle growth. Healthy muscles help with weight control, protect against type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis and osteoarthritis, the experts say. Apparently there are other positive effects from weight training. The doctors found that such training can improve cognitive functions.
Relationship between muscle building and cognitive functions found
We found a connection between strengthening muscles and improving cognitive functions, explains the author Dr. Yorgi Mavros from the University of Sydney. The stronger people get, the greater the positive benefit for the brain.
Study examines people between the ages of 55 and 80 years
The research team examined one hundred adult subjects between the ages of 55 and 80 years. Participants had low scores on cognitive tests. The subjects were divided into four groups and took part in various exercises twice a week. These stretched over a period of six months, the researchers say.
Exercises of the four groups of subjects
The first group carried out exercises with weights, resistance and cognitive training. The second group also did such exercises, but instead of cognitive training, they only received a placebo exercise (you were watching nature videos), the scientists explain. The third group only did brain exercise exercises. The last group received placebo exercises for the brain and physical training (stretching exercises / calisthenics).
Benefits of the exercises persisted for up to a year
The study found that weight and resistance exercises lead to significant improvements in cognitive functions, the experts explain. The benefits remain even one year after the study is completed. This is the first study to establish such a causal relationship, explains Dr. Mavros.
Are hormones responsible for the improvements?
Older adults tend to lose muscle mass and strength over time. If we improve these two factors, it also leads to an improvement in cognitive functions, the authors explain. Strength training works differently than exercises such as running or cycling. However, physicians do not yet fully understand the mechanism responsible for this. Hormones, which are necessary for strengthening muscle strength, probably also contribute to cognitive improvements, the experts speculate.
Different options for healthy strength training
Training with weights or resistance is done far too rarely by most people. Another study found that nine out of ten Australians didn't do strength training twice a week, although experts have been advising to do so for some time. Strength training can include lifting weights (dumbbells and kettlebells), exercises with your own body weight (pushups, squats and sit-ups) or exercises with a resistance band.
Strength training is still possible even at an advanced age
It is not only important how often such exercises are done, but also how these exercises are carried out, explains Dr. Mavros. Weight training can be done effectively or poorly. The participants in the study trained with a very high intensity (80 percent of their maximum). If people want to achieve positive improvements in the brain, they have to train with a high intensity, the doctors advise. Even in old age, the exercises do not necessarily have to decrease in intensity. Of course, the weights used vary from person to person, the authors add.
Exercises also bring benefits to people with dementia
It is never too late to start training. People with dementia can also gain some benefits from such exercises. This type of exercise is likely to be useful for any chronic condition, says Dr. Macros. (as)