Weight Training Stimulates the Learning and Memory Portion of the Brain
We know that exercise benefits us in many ways, including boosting our immune system. There is research that indicates that an active lifestyle may help reduce the risk of developing dementia/Alzheimer’s. Now, researchers in Australia believe that strength training may reduce our chance of developing Alzheimer’s.
At the University of Sydney, they studied people who were at high risk of developing Alzheimer’s. They placed the participants into four groups – one group participated in computer-aided brain stimulation exercises, another group did strength training, a third did a combination of those, and a fourth control group.
The groups that did strength training exercised for 45 minutes, twice a week for six months. And then they waited a full twelve months. What they saw was a dramatic difference in the decline in the sub-parts of the hippocampus (area of the brain critical for learning and memory). In the control group, the area of the hippocampus shrank at an expected rate of 3 to 4 percent over that time. In the groups participating in strength training, it shrank at 1 to 2 percent, or not at all.
Professor Valenzuela was amazed at the difference they saw. He said, “There was clear difference in terms of brain anatomy and linked to that, those people doing strength exercises had far better cognitive outcomes than otherwise.”
Valenzuela goes on to say that there were two competing theories as to why strength training may help improve brain function, “One is the chemical cocktail idea which is pumping weights and doing exercise releases a whole myriad of chemicals into the bloodstream which are good for the body, good for anti-diabetes, they’re good for anti-inflammatory.
The other idea is a central nervous system idea, which is doing what doing exercise repetitively stimulates almost electrically these memory parts of the hippocampus. We know this from rodents, we’re not sure if this happens in humans.”