I read this article today from The University of Sydney’s Brain & Mind Research Institute. The study had patients suffering from mild cognitive impairment, which is often a precursor to dementia, do weight lifting exercises for six months. The patients’ cognitive functions improved after the six months and continued to persist at higher levels a year after the study. Planning, organizing, strategizing, and visual memory function improvement were specifically called out.
I think this is a fairly easy idea to grasp. I grew up learning exercise is good for us. It decreases stress levels and depression, helps reduce heart disease and high blood pressure. It releases serotonin – the feel good hormone – and increases energy. So it’s seems obvious that exercise is good for those suffering with a mental disease as well. I think the exciting part of this study is the opportunity that exercise presents for maintaining and even improving mental capabilities in dementia patients.
Weight training is interesting too. They didn’t have the patients walk or play sports or any other type of exercise. The study was looking at if the hormones released during weight training that lead to muscle growth might also help lead to brain growth. And it seems there’s a correlation. Pedro’s done some weight lifting exercises with Jorge before. Jorge seemed to have a good time with it. Although it can be a little scary when he gets distracted lifting a free weight above his head! We definitely need to invest in some of those small colorful free weights. I’m sure TJ Maxx and Ross have some pretty cheap ones in their workout equipment section.
I think the other key here is investing the time to figure out some weight training exercises that are simple, repeatable, and easy enough to practice. Also, first get doctors approval for participation. The study did weight training sessions twice a week. And do a warm up before and cool down after working out.
Here are some activities they used or that the CDC recommends for elderly weight training.
- bicep curls
- overhead press
- walking up stairs
- resistance band rows
Guide on strength training from