Dr Mavros and his team from Australia’s University of Sydney conducted a study that shows a link between improved cognitive function and the gradual increase of muscle strength.
With an increasing number of cases of dementia and Alzheimer’s diseases occurring in older generations, the Australian university collaborated with the Centre for Healthy Brain Aging (CHeBA) to find out the correlation between increasing muscle strength and improving brain power.
With a reported 47 million people in the world suffering from dementia, which is forecast to triple by 2050, the findings from this recent study are particularly poignant. They could offer a greater insight into finding a holistic approach to care and treatment for those living with dementia and Alzheimer’s, improving their quality of life and potentially reducing specialist care costs.
The research was carried out at the University of South Wales and the University of Adelaide, using a Study of Resistance Training (SMART) on 100 patients aged between 55 and 68 who had mild cognitive impairment (MCI). Figures show that 80% of people with MCI go on to develop Alzheimer’s after as little as 6 years.
Training to gain a stronger brain
Over 6 months, participants were required to do a combination of resistance training, including weightlifting and placebo exercises twice a week, as well as computerised cognitive training and a placebo alternative.
Examining the results, the only activity that demonstrated a significant effect on improved cognitive function was increased muscle strength.
The benefits of exercise on the brain
Overall, the study clearly shows that the stronger the participants were physically, the more benefits there were to their brain’s cognitive function. Although, Dr Mavros does stress that the resistance exercise need to be done at least twice a week to be effective.
While there have already been studies that show a link between exercise and improved cognitive function, as exercise can improve gluco-regulation and cardiovascular health, reducing the risks of cognitive deterioration, this study shows that particular types of exercise play a vital role. The proportional link between increased muscle strength and improved brain strength is evident, just as aerobic exercise is known to increase the hippocampus part of the brain that helps with spatial awareness during the aging process.
All this research is very encouraging for understanding and treating conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s. However, at this stage further research is inevitably required to gain a greater insight into the exact role exercise has, whether it directly halts cognitive deterioration or perhaps triggers other effects that help with cognitive function.