Lifting weights is associated with positive cognition and memory area changes in the brain
A new study, conducted by research scientists and led by Teresa Liu-Ambrose, PhD from the University of British Columbia stated, “exercise is a promising strategy for combating cognitive decline.” She pointed out that other studies have found aerobic and resistance training increase the cognitive ability in older adults and others with mild cognitive impairments. Nevertheless, she noted there is no data comparing the effectiveness of aerobic or resistance training to one another in helping seniors with mild cognitive impairment.
Not having this data makes it difficult to understand which of the two forms of exercise could be the most beneficial and according to Dr. Liu-Ambrose, “understanding this is crucial to using exercises as a strategy for altering the trajectory of cognitive decline in seniors with mild cognitive impairment.” Therefore, she and her researchers placed 86 women, aged 70 to 80, into three groups.
The groups were divided up thusly:
Group 1 trained twice a week both machines and free weights
Group 2 exercised with an outdoor walking program
Group 3 did only balance and stretching activities
Each person in the three groups was measured with the Stroop test. This is a standard cognitive test used to measure selective attention and the individual’s ability to deal with conflicting information. In the latter instance, it would mean being able to read out loud the word blue, when it is actually printed in red.
A secondary group of tests “measured the individuals working memory, associative memory, problem-solving,” “visual attention and task switching.”
The results of the six-month study found that even though the aerobic group got physically fitter and improved their balance while doing so they realized no increased cognitive benefits. However, those in the weightlifting group “significantly improved their average performance on the Stroop test and tests of associative memory.”
In fact, there were significant functional changes within the areas of the brain that were associated with cognitive and memory as noted in the MRI scans of 22 participants.
Dr. Liu concluded that the results of the study provided “novel evidence” that strength training provided the beneficial results for those individuals that were suffering mild cognitive impairment. She did caution that these results might be different when tested with men or women of a different age group.