An Australian study appearing in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society in 2016, sought to find the impact of progressive strength training (increasing one’s strength by progressively lifting heavier weights) on boosting brain power. The study tested 100 adults aged 55 and older who had been diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment (MCI). MCI affects memory, thinking, and judgment beyond normal levels of age-related decline. The condition may increase a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
In the study, the participants were assigned to one of four groups:
- Resistance exercise and computer-based cognitive training
- Resistance exercise and computer placebo featuring nature videos
- Cognitive training and stretching
- Placebo exercise and mind training
Those in the exercise groups worked out 2 times per week for 6 months and trained at up to 80% of peak strength. The Alzheimer’s Disease Assessment Scale – Cognitive Subscale was used to measure cognitive abilities. The results showed that progressive resistance training was linked with significant improvement in global cognition compared with other protocols. They also found that these improvements were still present 12 months after the intervention was completed.
More needs to be learned about the mechanisms behind the cognitive improvements, but this is a promising path to determining the optimal way to prescribe exercise to maximize these effects.
Resource: IDEA Fitness Journal, January 2017