Strength Training May Protect Memory As We Age

African American woman exercising with weightsExercise is a great way to keep your brain healthy as you age. So, it should be no surprise that lifting weights may protect you against memory loss. In fact, according to a group of Australian researchers, hitting the weights as little as twice a week may help ward off Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.

Per the study which involved 100 men and women, ages 55 to 86 — all diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment (MCI)—a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease in which people have noticeably reduced memory or thinking abilities, but are still able to live independently — were divided into two groups: resistance training and seated stretching combined with calisthenics. Each group was then to complete their assigned regimen twice a week for six weeks.

Those assigned to strength-training used a weight machine, working to at least 80 percent of their peak strength during each session. As their strength increased, so did the weight. Meanwhile, those assigned to the latter group, used a computerized brain-training program in addition to following a basic exercise routine.

In 2014, the study’s primary results, revealed that participants in the strength-training groups made significant improvements on tests to measure cognition — persisting even 12 months after the supervised exercise sessions ended. Unfortunately, that was not the case for those assigned to the stretching and calisthenics group.

In a recently published follow-up analysis, study authors also disclosed that MRI scans showed an increase in the size of specific areas of the brain in participants who completed the weight training program — noting that the changes which occurred, were linked to cognitive improvements.