You want to grow old vitally and younger, with as few wrinkles as possible, without “senior moments.” But a more serious fear of aging is developing dementia, when your brain cells don’t function properly. These brain changes could eventually impair your everyday living, as it does with Alzheimer’s—a form of dementia affecting one in eight Americans.
Fortunately, new studies shed light on a simple process to help you take control and keep your brain sharp: Strength training, which uses weights and other forms of resistance to build muscles, and intensive interval cardio (intensive exercise of any kind that raises your heart rate near its max) to help create endurance.
We already know that aerobic workouts boost blood flow to your brain for optimum functioning (with the oxygen and nutrients it delivers). But now studies also point to resistance-type exercises as the way to a stronger body and brain.
In a study of elderly Canadian women with mild cognitive impairment, those who did strength training or intensive cardio performed the best on tests of attention, memory and higher thinking, such as conflict resolution. They also had greater functioning in brain regions associated with memory. How’s that for a fight against senior moments?
Using resistance and intensive cardio training to proactively prevent memory loss appears to be key. In another study, women who had the highest levels of cognitive functioning at the start of the study ended up reporting better memory at the study’s end.
Researchers have some good hunches as to why strengthening exercises benefit the brain. Weight and intensive cardio training boosts blood levels of a growth factor that not only supports bone mineral density, but nerve growth as well.
Additionally, there’s a lot of learning that goes into following a weight-training program, especially for older adults. You have to familiarize yourself with equipment and remember your repetitions and weight settings. This active engagement of your noggin helps keep it in tiptop shape.
Whether it’s for your brain or body, weight and intensive cardio training is a must. More muscle mass protects break-prone bones like the hip and forearm, which are at higher risk for fracture after menopause. Not to mention, strength training begets better posture, which shows the world you’re as confident as you are beautiful. So long, slouchy shoulders and foggy memory!
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