JAN 11, 2016 4:52 AM PST

Resistance Training For The Brain

It’s common knowledge that exercise has many benefits. While it can keep the heart healthy and the muscles strong, there are mental benefits as well. Whether it’s the endorphins that long distance runners report, or just the stress relieving properties of a good Zumba class, exercise is good for the brain as well as the body.
Strength training has brain benefits

Recent research from Canada bears this out as well. A study  published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society shows that resistance training can have a significant effect on the progression of white matter lesions which are common in older people and can cause dementia. 
 
The study was lead by Teresa Liu-Ambrose, who is the director of the Aging, Mobility, and Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory at the University of B.C. She says the results were a surprise to the team. In an interview with Vancouver Metro she said, “What’s most exciting is we didn’t expect resistance training to have these types of effects. Most people think of running and swimming … as being good for the brain, but what we are finding is that strength training certainly does have similar benefits.” 
 
The study, a year –long randomized controlled trial,  looked at whether resistance training could slow the progression of white matter lesions in older women. Researchers enlisted 155 women between the ages of 65 and 75 from the local area who had evidence of white matter lesions on an MRI. 

A brain lesion is an abnormality seen on a brain-imaging test, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) or a computerized tomography (CT) scan. On CT or MRI scans, brain lesions appear as dark or light spots that don't look like normal brain tissue. They are common in people over 65 years of age. On their own they can be benign or problematic and normally result from some form of disease or injury to the head. ()
 
For the Canadian study, the women were divided into three groups. One group did resistance training exercises once a week. A second group did double that amount and a third group underwent a twice-weekly  class to learn exercises to improve their balance and muscle tone. When the trail was finished, the researchers found the group of women who exercised twice week had a much lower volume of white matter lesions than did the group that exercised just once a week.
 
Liu-Ambrose told Men’s Fitness magazine, “From the data we generated, as well as understanding the benefit of resistance training on cardiometabolic and cardiovascular health, one could reasonably hypothesize that long-term resistance training could prevent [white-matter] lesion development and progression." 
 
The study did not address whether or not the brain lesions found in the study participants had any effect on their cognition or memory, but the team hopes to look further into that issue in future studies. The video below has more information about the research and what it could mean. Check it out.
 
About the Author
  • I'm a writer living in the Boston area. My interests include cancer research, cardiology and neuroscience. I want to be part of using the Internet and social media to educate professionals and patients in a collaborative environment.
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