Weight Training Boosts Brain Fitness

by Shirley Archer, JD, MA on Sep 21, 2012

Mind-Body-Spirit News

Picking up a pair of dumbbells may be an effective prescription for improving mental fitness. New research suggests that twice-weekly strength training can boost brain power in older women with mild cognitive impairment more effectively than either aerobic or balance training. Researchers from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver recruited 86 women, aged 70–80, who had subjective memory complaints and probable mild cognitive impairment. Subjects were randomly assigned to one of three training groups: resistance, aerobic, or balance and toning. Classes lasted 60 minutes and were conducted twice-weekly for 6 months. Researchers collected data on cognitive function, balance, mobility and cardiovascular fitness at baseline and at completion. The strength training group showed significant cognitive improvement by comparison with the balance and toning groups. The aerobic participants made the most improvement in physical fitness but also had the highest dropout rate. “There is much debate as to whether cognitive function can be improved once there is noticeable impairment,” said Teresa Liu-Ambrose, PhD, study co-author and assistant professor in the department of physical therapy at the University of British Columbia. “What our results show is that resistance training can indeed improve both your cognitive performance and your brain function.” The findings were reported in the Archives of Internal Medicine (2012; 172 [8], 666–68). To see a video of the resistance exercises used in the study, go to www.youtube.com/watch?v=vG6sJm2d4oc.

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About the Author

Shirley Archer, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA IDEA Author/Presenter

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, is the 2008 IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year and is IDEA's mind-body-spirit spokesperson. She is a certified yoga and Pilates teacher and an award-winning author based in Los Angeles, California, and Zurich, Switzerland. Two of her books, The Walking Deck and The Strength and Toning Deck, are now featured as iPhone apps. Contact her at www.shirleyarcher.com.