You know how good exercise is for your mental health. A long-distance run outside or a swim in the pool bodes well for a clear and alert mind, leaving you feeling just plain wonderful. Weight training, however, doesn’t necessarily get that same kind of PR—when you seek mental clarity, you typically think of stress-relieving cardio. But a new study shows that lifting some pounds a few times a week can strengthen your brain and slow down its aging.
Just as our muscles start to shrink as we age, so do our brains. So when we strengthen our muscles through weight training, can we strengthen our brains, too? This is what scientists wanted to find out, so they tested a group of women between the age of 65 to 75 by splitting them into three groups with different fitness regimens: one that focused on flexibility and stretching, another that did weight training once a week and another that did weight training twice a week.
The results of the study, published this month in American Geriatrics Society, showed a decrease in white matter (or age-related holes) in the brains of the women who weight trained twice a week. Meanwhile, the group that weight trained once a week and the group that focused on flexibility showed an increase in white matter. The study concluded that weight training twice a week could help the brain slow down the aging process. How exactly remains to be unseen, but one theory is that strong muscles release substances that make their way to the brain that stimulate changes.
So while weight training can bring you overall toning and strength, it is working something significant from within as well—your mind. If you don’t already weight train, considering trying free weights twice a week for 20 minutes each session. Start protecting your brain by building your bod.