06 Aug Change Your Brain—Neuroplasticity Rocks!
As we get older, we unfortunately discover that our brains can slow down too. Some studies that involve both humans and animals have shown that regular aerobic exercise like walking or jogging can give a boost to memory and cognition. Aerobic exercise can increase the number of new neurons in the brain’s memory centre, and also decrease inflammation. It’s inflammation in the brain that can lead to the development of dementia.
Until recently, there has not been much research on how resistance training can affect the brain. Obviously weight lifting builds muscles, but can it affect the cells and function of the brain?
An interesting study was recently published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, where the authors taped weighted pellets to the butts of rats, and had them train on a 100cm ladder. After several weeks, the climbing rats showed increased muscle mass.
A separate group of rats were injected with a substance that causes inflammation in the brain that created symptoms of early dementia. Half of these rats began weight training, and over weeks, the weights strapped to their butts became heavier to progress their strength training.
After 5 weeks, all rats were let loose into a maze where they were expected to run immediately for one dark chamber, and they would learn where that was located so that each time they were admitted into the maze, they should run directly there. What they learned is that after a few repetitions, the cognitively impaired rats who did the weight training surpassed the speed and accuracy of the control rats . The authors of this study concluded that the weight training had restored the rats’ ability to think, since the untrained rats with mild dementia continued to lag far behind the others in their ability to find the dark chamber.
Upon examination of the brains of these rats, there was inflammation found in the brains of the rats who had been injected with the chemical, but the brains of the rats who did the weight training showed a huge number of enzymes and genetic markers that would create new neurons, allowing the brain to remodel itself.
Obviously rats are not people, and it isn’t known that the brains of people who weight train would behave in the same way to lifting weights. It is fair to say that resistance training is beneficial for muscle mass and strength, for bone density and metabolism, and if it does help to protect the brain, so much the better!
At Elevation Physiotherapy & Wellness, our Physiotherapists are able to develop a resistance program that is individual for you, based on your own goals. Call us to talk about how we may be able to make your brain stronger!