Pumping iron for a fitter brain: Weight training has surprising cognitive rewards

One of the most important things you can do for your brain is to move your body. People who exercise have less risk for brain disorders like Alzheimer’s disease and depression. It isn’t just cardiorespiratory exercise, like dancing or running, that your brain needs. Weightlifting should get more attention.

Studies show that resistance training boosts brain health. Weightlifting improves brain function, more so in the elderly. Cognitive decline can slow down with resistance training. Weightlifting may also lessen depressive symptoms.

Weightlifting is beneficial for almost every health issue. No drug achieves the same combination of benefits. The reports that resistance training (i.e., muscle-strengthening) is inversely associated with medical disorders like cardiovascular disease and diabetes. This means that the more you do, the lower your risk for these diseases.

older man lifting weights

Weight training improves the brain’s ability to access and process glucose. People with disordered metabolism are at greater risk for dementia and depression. Those with Type 2 diabetes are at a 77-percent higher risk for depression than are people with normal blood sugars.

Unstable blood sugar for long durations is associated with inflammation, which damages the brain. Fluctuations in your blood sugar are associated with insulin resistance – meaning brain cells have trouble getting the energy they need.

A session of resistance training decreases blood glucose and insulin levels for up to 24 hours. It lowers three-month blood sugar measurements (HgbA1c) in people at risk for developing diabetes. It also increases insulin sensitivity in the elderly, according to the Journal of Exercise Science and Fitness.

Weight training also boosts the immune system

The function of the immune system is currently a top interest in health. Chronic inflammation is of peak interest as one of the forces driving disease. It turns out that weight training and the immune system are intimately associated, and weight training can be of great benefit.

In particular, molecules called that affect the brain are produced by the muscles. The important principle it illustrates is that weight training affects the levels of multiple chemicals produced by muscles, which are beneficial to the brain.

One of the crucial myokines is (BDNF). Others include insulin-like-growth factor 1 (IGF-1), interleukin 6 (IL-6), and irisin. They have favorable effects on the immune system. BDNF is strongly tied to neuroplasticity, the ability of brain cells to strengthen their connections and even generate new brain cells and connections.

Get the benefits of resistance training

Like everything else in long-term health promotion, brain health strategies should be designed with the goal of sustainability. That means avoiding injury and creating habits that you’ll enjoy for months to years. Here are some tips:

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