We all know about the physical benefits of working out with weights by now-increased strength, increased metabolism, resistance to injury, etc. etc. But more and more new research is showing that another major benefit of progressive resistance exercise is the slowing down of the adverse effects that aging has on our brains.
By late middle age, many neurological studies reveal that most of us have begun developing age-related lesions in our brains’ white matter-the material that connects and passes messages between different brain regions.
The lesions are usually asymptomatic at first. But these lesions can widen and multiply as the years go by, causing the shrinking our white matter and affecting our thinking. Studies have found that older people with many lesions tend to have worse cognitive abilities than those whose white matter is relatively intact.
Canadian researcher Theresa Liu-Ambrose has discovered that progressive resistance exercise (i.e. lifting weights) has the greatest benefit in fighting this age-related shrinking, compared to other forms of exercise.
Dr. Liu-Ambrose and her colleagues tested women from age 65-75 using three different exercises programs- a balance and flexibility training group, a once-a-week weight training group, and a twice-a-week weight training group. The women stuck with their training program for a year. At the conclusion they underwent brain scans which were compared to their pre-study brain scans.
The results revealed that the women in the control group, who had concentrated on balance and flexibility, showed progression in the number and size of the lesions in their white matter, as did the once a week weight training group.
But those who had trained with weights twice per week had significantly less shrinkage of their white matter than the other women. Their walking also improved in speed and precision more than the women in the other two groups. These findings suggest that twicew a week weight training can beneficially change the structure of the brain, according to DR. Liu-Ambrose.
So stay committed to lifting those weights twice a week in a progressive fashion forever-in addition to looking and feeling great, your brain will thank you for it!