Three people training with tension cords outside

Is resistance training good for your brain? Researchers say yes

We all know that exercise is great for people of all ages. It helps our bodies stay healthy, helps prevent various diseases and delays the effects of aging.

We’ve also heard that regular exercise can have a positive effect on us mentally. It is a great way to reduce stress, and it helps with treatment of depression, increasing self-esteem and helps us maintain a positive outlook.

However, new research suggests that resistance training may also be good for the brain.

About the study

A study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that older women who engaged in weight training for one hour, twice per week, experienced significantly less shrinkage of the white matter in their brain than women who spent the same amount of time focusing on flexibility- and balance-related exercises.

The study also found that the same women who engaged in weight training also maintained their walking speed, which has been known to slow down in people with white matter lesions.

"What we found was that with those individuals who were involved in twice-a-week resistance training, their volume essentially remained unchanged over time. And that's pretty critical," lead researcher, Teresa Liu-Ambrose, says in CBC News. "In comparison, those in the balance and tone group actually did increase, so the lesions or the disease did spread to a greater portion of the white matter."

Liu-Ambrose continues: "Our study is really demonstrating that exercise does have a benefit. It's benefiting those individuals who are already demonstrating this condition."

Dr. William Reichman, a specialist in geriatric mental health, was not involved in the study, but he feels positive about the results. "The message that upper body weight training can get positive brain results is really important as an alternative to lower body dependent exercise," he says.

So what does this mean for seniors? It simple: Get out and exercise. Regardless of your age, resistance training can be beneficial to your health. Talk to your doctor before you begin any new exercise program. If you are not sure how to get started, consider working with a personal trainer. They can help you get on the right track.