A twice weekly weights session was found to improve brain function of people with mild cognitive impairment
A study from the University of Sydney in Australia has found doing regular resistance exercise using weights can keep your brain healthy.
Researchers looked at 100 people aged between 55 and 86 who all had mild cognitive impairment. This is a condition that is often considered to be a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. Symptoms include difficulty remembering things, losing items and struggling to follow some instructions.
Study participants were divided into four groups, with one taking part in regular resistance exercise – lifting weights twice a week for six months.
Dr Yorgi Mavros, from the University of Sydney in Australia, said:
‘What we found 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.
‘The more we can get people doing resistance training like weightlifting, 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.’
What’s more, the findings showed the benefits continued more than a year after the exercise sessions finished.
Dr James Pickett, Head of Research at Alzheimer’s Society said:
‘New research is beginning to unravel how physical exercise may have benefits for the brain as people get older. This study suggests that people with minor memory and thinking problems, known as mild cognitive impairment, may benefit from weight training to improve their brain health.
‘Not everyone with Mild Cognitive Impairment will go on to develop dementia – and it is not yet clear whether weight training could prevent dementia or help those who already have the condition. However, we do know that the best way to reduce your risk of developing dementia is a combination of taking regular exercise, not smoking and eating a healthy, balanced diet.’
When it comes to doing strength and resistance training, don’t assume it’s all about lifting enormous weights next to grunting gym goers! You can build the resistance up gradually, even using weights you can find around the house such as bottles of water or tins of beans.
And strength building doesn’t just provide benefits for your brain. It can also keep a loved one strong all over, which helps to reduce their risk of falls.
For more tips on building strength, click here.