Resistance Training Might Be The True Fountain of Youth
Some Quick Science
Muscle, as you probably know, tends to shrink with age. Brains are like that too, except that instead of simply shrinking and losing gray matter they also develop tiny little holes, or “lesions,” in their white matter (white matter connects different parts of the brain).
Neuron loss and lesions are normal by late middle age. Most people don’t even show any cognitive decline at this point however over time more lesions start to appear they get bigger, which leads to reduced cognitive ability.
There Are Many Ways Exercise Improves Cognitive Health
Cardiovascular exercise increases blood (and oxygen) flow to your brain and leads to the production of neurons (gray matter) but doesn’t affect white-matter lesions.
Exercise also promotes the production of neurotrophins and certain neurotransmitters. Neurotrophins are proteins that aid neuron survival and function leading to better memory and learning. Neurotransmitters (serotonin and norepinephrine) boost information processing and mood.
But what about those white matter lesions?
Researchers at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver focused on how resistance training might put a halt to those nasty lesions. They put 54 women aged 65 to 75—all with evidence of white-matter lesions—through one of three training programs.
After a year, subjects who strength trained progressively twice a week had significantly lower white-matter lesions, suggesting that regular weightlifting boosts brain and cognitive health in the long run.
“From the data we generated, long-term resistance training could prevent (white-matter) lesion development and progression,” Liu-Ambrose from UBC says.
So, if you want to retain brain power into your old age, pick up a pair of weights!