For a long time, people praised strength training for making muscles and bones stronger. Now, research shows it’s also excellent for our brains. Scientists call skeletal muscle the “organ of longevity.”1 When we lift weights, our brains get sharper and protect against diseases. This article will look at the research connecting strength training to brain health. It will also give tips on adding this knowledge to your workout plan.

Key Takeaways

  • Strength training has been shown to improve cognitive function, memory, and executive function in both young and older adults.
  • Resistance training can have neuroprotective benefits, helping to prevent cognitive decline and delay the onset of dementia.
  • Muscular strength and power are associated with better cognitive performance and brain health, even when controlling for genetics and early life factors.
  • Consistent strength training is crucial for maintaining the cognitive benefits, as detraining can quickly erase these improvements.
  • The communication between muscles and the brain, mediated by myokines, may be a key mechanism behind the brain health benefits of strength training.

The Fascinating Link Between Muscle and Brain

The principle of overload says a muscle grows when it faces intense stress.2 Muscles, when worked hard, release myokines. These are like messengers that travel to the brain and other body parts.2 This keeps the body’s parts well-tuned, working well together.

Overload Principle and Muscle Growth

Muscles need a tough challenge to grow; this is the overload principle in action.2 It means gradually making the muscles work harder. This way, they become stronger and bigger over time.

Myokines: The Molecular Communicators

Exercise that stresses the muscles not only boosts memory and thinking now but also shields against cognitive issues later.23 Myokines play a big part in this by enhancing the muscle-brain communication. They’re like the emails that keep our body’s parts talking.

Muscles as the Organ of Longevity

We now see skeletal muscles as key to living longer.2 They talk to our brains using myokines. This shows how crucial keeping both body and mind active is, offering ways to bolster brain power through special exercises.

Strength Training and Brain Health: A Review of the Literature

Strength training isn’t just for your muscles. It also boosts your brain power. Studies show that tough workouts can improve how we think and remember things.2

For young adults, a mix of heavy weights and cardio makes a big difference. It makes them do better on tests that measure thinking.2 Older adults benefit too. Their memory gets a boost. They also find it easier to focus and solve problems.2

Moreover, strength training protects our brains as we age. People with mild memory issues get a mental pick-me-up from these exercises.2

strength training brain health

Better Brains Now – Improving Cognition

Acute Exercise and Cognitive Function

Studies show that intense workouts can boost how well young adults think.4 This means that any kind of tough exercise can make thinking clearer right away.

Resistance Training and Memory Enhancement

For older adults, lifting weights can be a brain-booster.4 It not only helps remember things better, but it also sharpens focus and decision-making. After just 12 weeks, women between 60 and 70 saw a 19% jump in their thinking skills.

Better Brains Later – Preventing and Positively Impacting Brain Disease

New studies show that lifting weights might protect our brains and make us think better as we get older. This is great news for people over 55, even if they’re starting to forget things a little. They found that working out with weights for six months improved parts of the brain that can get sick from memory problems like Alzheimer’s.5

Resistance Training and Neuroprotective Benefits

Looking at 18 pieces of research also proves that getting stronger helps our brains.5 It shows that when we exercise, our genes change for the better, making our brains work and feel better.5 This exercise could be like a shield against brain diseases, but we still need more research to be completely sure why it works.5

High-Intensity Training for Mild Cognitive Impairment

Not just any exercise, but intense weightlifting helps our brains act sharper, especially for those with early memory problems.5 In both animal and human studies, working out increases certain brain parts and helps our thinking skills.5 These benefits include better memory, paying attention, and making decisions.5 Working out this way can help us keep our brains healthy as we grow older.5

Strength Training and Brain Health: Benefits Beyond Physical Fitness

Strength training does more than just help your body. It can boost your brain power too. Strong evidence shows that it can make you think better and remember more. It also helps protect your brain and fights against memory loss.1 For instance, a study with 36 young women found that mixing light weightlifting with moderate cardio made their brains work better.1 In Canada, research showed that weightlifting helps older women remember things and solve problems better than just toning exercises.1 Plus, another study found that 60 to 70-year-old women who lifted weights for 12 weeks saw their thinking skills improve a lot.

Professionals in health and fitness are finding ways to share this good news. They work with their clients to get these brain benefits from strength training.1 In a different study, older adults with some memory issues did high-level weightlifting for six months. This not only helped their muscles but also protected their brains from Alzheimer’s disease in some parts.1 High-intensity weightlifting also seems to make the brain work better in older people with a bit of memory loss.

1 A project watching 324 healthy twins found after 10 years that the ones with stronger legs and better brain sizes tended to do better on tests.1 However, stop exercising for just a month, and any brain and body gains from six months of weightlifting are lost.1 Scientists also discovered that weak grips and slow movements in older women can signal troubles with memory later on.1 And a yearlong look at weightlifting in women 65 to 75 found that twice-a-week sessions improved the ability to think and make decisions.

1 Special chemicals made in the muscles during exercising also help brain functions. They affect several parts of the body, not just the brain, like skin, bones, and pancreas.1 These exercise-made chemicals work locally and over distances in the body, changing the way the whole body works.1 What’s more, exercise makes the part of the brain responsible for memory bigger, which is good news for learning no matter what kind of training you do.

The Link Between Muscular Strength and Cognitive Functioning

New studies show an amazing link between strong muscles and thinking well. They argue that being stronger could mean having a sharper mind.5

Leg Power and Cognitive Performance

It’s pretty cool that how strong your legs are might predict how you think and even how big your brain is. This is true for twins who are healthy.5

Strength and Cognition in Aging Adults

As people get older, being strong is very important for their brains. In one study, over 1,000 women aged 75+ took tests. Those with weak grip and who moved slowly had more risk of dementia later. This was true even if they had a healthy lifestyle or genes.5

Also, a long study involving 8,000 women aged 65 to 86 showed a loss of muscle could raise the chances of thinking problems as they aged.5

Grip Strength and Risk of Dementia

Having a strong grip shows more than just muscle power. It might also say something about how healthy your mind will be in the future. A big study with over 1,000 older women found this. Those with weak grips were more likely to get dementia, no matter their lifestyle or genes.5

Muscular Strength

Muscle Mass and Cognitive Decline

Aging often brings a decrease in muscle mass and strength, a condition called sarcopenia.2 This issue connects with brain health. Studies show links between muscle strength, brain performance, and structure.2 Excitingly, doing resistance exercises can enhance brain functioning and reduce oxidative stress, showing how muscle and brain health are closely related.2

Consistency in Training for Cognitive Benefits

Keeping up with regular training is key for brain health benefits. In a 12-month study, older women doing strength exercises twice a week significantly improved their thinking skills and the ability to stop automatic responses.1 But, when they stopped training for a month, they lost these benefits, proving that ongoing training is vital.1

Studies also indicate that losing muscle mass as we age may up the chances of cognitive decline.1 It’s essential for health experts to blend different types of resistance training to keep our brains fit.1

Exploring the Mechanisms: Myokines and Brain Function

There’s a clear connection between muscle work and our brain’s health. Research shows how important myokines are in this link. Myokines are special cells that our muscles create after a good workout.

These myokines, like the brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), irisin, and interleukin-6, affect other parts of our body. They help protect our brain and boost how well we think.6

When we exercise, our muscles talk to our brain in a good way. This connection is key for keeping our mind sharp as we get older.7

Studying this link can help health and fitness experts advise others. Knowing how muscles and our brain work together can improve our thinking skills for a long time.76

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