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Grand Rapids Trainer News: Weight Training May Improve Brain Health

October 22nd, 2015 by Debbie Martilotta

cognitiveCan strength training with Grand Rapids Personal Trainer Debbie Martilotta twice a week actually fight the loss of memory and cognition attributed to “gaps” in the aging brain? According to an article published on the New York Times website, the answer could very well be yes.

By the time many of us reach late middle age, our brains have started developing small lesions or gaps within the white matter, which many studies claim to be the cause of lapses in recall or cognition. White matter fills the space between other areas of the brain, and is responsible for communication between these centers. These lesions only get bigger over time, but there are steps you can take to slow them down and keep the white matter intact. One of which is getting regular exercise. Usually when people hear this, they think of aerobic exercises, not necessarily strength training.

In a study performed by Dr. Teresa Liu-Ambrose, it was discovered that strength training may also contribute to slowing down the growth of these gaps.

Here’s an excerpt from the article published in The New York Times Wellness Blog:
A few encouraging past studies have suggested that regular, moderate aerobic exercise such as walking may slow the progression of white matter lesions in older people.

But Teresa Liu-Ambrose, a professor of physical therapy and director of the Aging, Mobility, and Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, wondered whether other types of exercise would likewise be beneficial for white matter.

In particular, she was interested in weight training, because weight training strengthens and builds muscles.

Our muscles, like our brains, tend to shrink with age, affecting how we move. Punier muscle mass generally results in slower, more-unsteady walking.

More surprising, changes in gait with aging may indicate and even contribute to declines in brain health, including in our white matter, scientists think.

But if so, Dr. Liu-Ambrose thought, then weight training, which strengthens and builds muscle, might be expected to alter that process and potentially keep aging brains and bodies healthier.

To test that idea, she and her colleagues turned to a large group of generally healthy women between the ages of 65 and 75 who already were enrolled in a brain health study that she was leading. The women had had at least one brain scan.

For the new study, which was published this month in The Journal of the American Geriatrics Society, the scientists zeroed in on 54 of the women, whose scans showed existing white matter lesions.

The scientists tested the women’s gait speed and stability, then randomly assigned them to one of three groups.

Some began a supervised, once-weekly program of light upper- and lower-body weight training. A second group undertook the same weight-training routine but twice per week. And the third group, acting as a control, started a twice-weekly regimen of stretching and balance training.

All of the women continued their assigned exercise routines for a year.

At the end of that time, their brains were scanned again and their walking ability re-assessed.

The results were alternately sobering and stirring. The women in the control group, who had concentrated on balance and flexibility, showed worrying progression in the number and size of the lesions in their white matter and in the slowing of their gaits.

So did the women who had weight trained once per week.

But those who had lifted weights twice per week displayed significantly less shrinkage and tattering of their white matter than the other women. Their lesions had grown and multiplied somewhat, but not nearly as much.

To read the full article from The New York Times, Click Here.

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