Muscles on the Brain By John Steele

     Vera West usually writes for this site on health issues, but some get tossed my way when they touch on hairy chested issues, like weight lifting, a practice I have enjoyed all my life. And, it is not just for men, but women, and especially older people can benefit, not only strengthening muscles and bones, but even helping with the dreaded Alzheimer’s, the fear of which must knock on our mental door, every time we have a senior moment, which for many of us, is becoming more frequent that desired. Why am I writing in such long senetences? Is it mental decline?

     The following is a summary of some studies:

“To begin the study, researchers asked a group of people aged 55 to 86 to engage in a mix of weight lifting and brain training exercises. All of the people who partook in the study had been diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment, which is a precursor to Alzheimer’s disease, and is an early sign of dementia. While this particular study did not examine whether the benefits of exercise could be extended to the general population, the results were quite impressive. Published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, the study found that weight-baring exercises could indeed provide some brain benefits. The researchers found a casual relationship between an increase in muscle strength and an increase in brain function. On that basis, the team recommended that more people begin a strength training regime so that the world’s aging population can hopefully be a little healthier.

It is currently projected that about 135 million people will have dementia by the year 2050. The same team behind this most recent research also published a paper in 2014 that revealed that weight training provided cognitive benefits to just about every area of the brain – something cognitive training failed to do. While discussing their most recent data, one of the study’s researchers, Dr. Yorgi Mavros of Sydney University, commented, “What we found in this follow-up study is that the improvement in cognition function was related to their muscle strength gains. The stronger people became, the greater the benefit for their brain.”

For the strength training, study participants were asked to lift weights that were equivalent to about 80 percent of their maximum capacity, twice a week for six months – similar to the way in which many athletes train. And, as the participants got stronger, the amount of weight they lifted went up as well, in order to maintain the desired 80 percent of their maximum effort. Brain scans revealed that certain regions of the brain actually increased in size for those who took part in the exercise regime. Dr. Mavros says that the benefits were profound enough to warrant recommending weight training for everyone.”

     Now, this is where one needs to be careful. Going out and getting some weights and just lifting them is a problem. Everyone, certainly older people need a full health check-up before even starting. Then, one needs to ease oneself into lifting weights, to prevent injuries. As with any physical activity, injuries happen. It is best to join a gym for a while to learn how to  lift safely. Get a qualified fitness instructor to teach you. I have spent a lot of time on YouTube, and almost everything there is for advanced young people. This sort of exercise will only yield its enormous benefits if safety is put first. And, it can be achieved! The weight training can be done in addition, not in replacement, to your normal exercise, such as walking the dog, or wife/hubby. Sitting all day at a computer, or just watching TV, is a death sentence, but our eager,  dedicated band of writers are prepared to lower their life spans, to bring you fresh, up-to-date commentary and analysis:

     Talk about making the ultimate sacrifice!



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