The brain is our body’s compass. In order to achieve our optimal health goals, it is important to focus on brain health. Advice given by medical experts point to several ways to improve brain health including an exercise plan that incorporates strength training; a diet rich in omega 3 fatty acids; a focus on proper sleep habits; activities that require you to use your brain in challenging ways; and stress-reducing techniques that bring you to a state of pure relaxation.
Today I will focus this blog on strength training and exercise. Otherwise, I could keep you here indefinitely!
The latest data linking muscle mass to a stronger brain is truly mind-blowing. A recent study published in the Journal of Sports & Exercise Psychology found that participants who completed a moderate to high-intensity strength training program on a regular basis were able to process information more efficiently than those who did not.
Another article to tip you towards strength training was recently published in Prevention Magazine, titled “Challenge Your Balance, Why It’s a Brain Booster.” By adding balance to your strength training movements you are actually strengthening your brain muscles. This results in neuroplasticity, which is the growth of new brain neurons. Even in adulthood, new studies have shown that our brain never stops changing through learning. Therefore, “complex exercise movements force your mind to work harder by engaging multiple parts of the brain," says John Martin, PhD, a neuroscientist at Columbia University.
A recent study highlighted in a Harvard publication assessed the positive effects of weight training versus stretching in women who had mild cognitive decline. All participants were studied for a 12 months period. The group that incorporated weight training scored significantly higher at the end of the study than at the beginning and retained that gain at 12 months. The gain in test scores was also greatest for those who had the greatest gains in strength. The scores of the group who performed stretching exercises declined somewhat.
Similar findings found that six months of strength training can help protect brain areas especially vulnerable to Alzheimer’s disease up to one year later. The message is clear: resistance exercise needs to become a standard part of dementia risk-reduction strategies.
Finally, according to Hello Brain being physically active is like drinking a tonic for your brain. Our brain uses the blood and oxygen we are pumping through our systems with exercise to build new neurons and connections. According to experts, this is providing us with the essential tools needed as we age and builds up brain reserves, backup funds for a possible decline. This sounds like the much-needed drink, along with water, that our bodies are craving.
Overall, when looking for a good direction to take for long-term brain health, it seems to be a “yes brainer” to add strength training to your life!
Happy Strength Training!