Is it a good time to start pumping iron? A new study from the University of British Columbia thinks so, after discovering its advantages to brain health.
New research from UBC’s Aging, Mobility, and Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory discovered that resistance training may slow brain aging among older women.
In a study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, researchers analyzed 155 women ages 65 to 75. In the group, 54 subjects showed through MRI scans some evidence of a type of brain lesion, a common indicator of aging.
The team followed the women for a year while they started to do three types of exercise program: lifting weights once every week, lifting weights twice weekly, and stretching and balance training (only as a control).
The researchers made another scan of the women’s brains at the end of the year. The control group was found to exhibit progression of brain lesions in both number and size. However, slowed progression of the lesions was discovered in those who lifted weights twice weekly.
Study author Teresa Liu-Ambrose, UBC physical therapy professor and the laboratory’s director, said this is one of the first to show weight training benefits on the brain.
“[W]e didn’t expect resistance training to have these types of effects,” she said, citing that strength training provides gains similar to running and swimming, which what most people believe are good for the brain.
The new research highlighted the value of strength training for both the physical and cognitive wellness of elderly individuals.
Liu-Ambrose added that among older adults, not everyone can perform aerobic exercises such as running and swimming. Resistance training can be an option in their case, particularly if they are confronted by other conditions leading to reduced mobility.
This study covered only female participants, but the UBC team plans to conduct the same investigation on men.
Strength training can be performed either at home or in the gym, with choices that include body weight exercises (such as push-ups and leg squats), resistance tubing, free weight exercises and resistance machine workouts.