“Great ideas originate in the muscles” – Thomas Edison
Thought he may not have meant literally, it turns out this might actually be true.
Increased muscle strength leads to better brain function according to recent findings from the Study of Mental and Resistance Training (S.M.A.R.T.) trial.
Using randomized, double blind study design, researchers were able to definitively demonstrate a causal link between resistance training and better mental function in adults with mild cognitive impairment. Better yet, they found that the stronger the study participants became, the more their brains benefitted.
Everyone knows that high intensity strength training leads to thicker pecs, quads, guns, and lats, but did you know that it leads to thicker grey matter in the posterior cingulate cortex? What’s that? You’ve haven’t checked on the density of your PCC lately? No matter, researchers at the University of Sydney have keeping an eye on them for us.
For those of you who aren’t physicians, anatomists, or neurological scientists, the posterior cingulate cortex is a highly active and connected portion of the brain. Though its functions are not fully understood, this area of the brain is known to be affected at the onset of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
To better understand the impact (if any) of resistance and cognitive training on neuroplasticity (changes in brain biology), researchers assigned 100 study participants to one of four different groups. The first group performed resistance and cognitive exercises; the second group, resistance training only; the third group, cognitive training only; and the fourth group performed neither resistance nor cognitive training.
Whereas the placebo group (the participants that did not perform training of either type) lost posterior cingulate grey matter, both cognitive and resistance training led to improved brain function and mass, respectively, suggesting that weight training may be an effective means of preserving memory, and possibly even guarding against dementia.