Article image

How weight training boosts brain health

Weight training, often overlooked next to the well-known benefits of cardio exercises like running or dancing, is emerging as a crucial ally in the quest for cognitive wellness.

This form of resistance training has been shown to confer significant cognitive benefits by boosting brain health, especially among older adults.

Surprising insights from recent studies

According to research, resistance training is not only good for the muscles but also offers extensive health benefits rarely achieved by any medication. It is inversely associated with several medical conditions, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Essentially, the more you engage in muscle-strengthening activities, the lower your risk of these diseases. Weight training has also been found to slow cognitive decline and alleviate symptoms of depression.

“Skeletal muscle is critical for numerous functional and metabolic processes essential to good health. Resistance training (RT), muscle contraction against external weight, potently increases muscle strength and mass, improves physical performance, provides a myriad of metabolic-health benefits and combats chronic disease risk,” noted the study authors. 

Weight training: A sugar regulator

The link between metabolic disorders and brain health cannot be overstated. Disordered metabolism is a significant risk factor for conditions such as dementia and depression.

Interestingly, weight training improves the brain’s ability to utilize glucose, which is vital for those with Type 2 diabetes. This group is 77% more likely to suffer from depression than those with normal blood sugar levels.

Moreover, resistance training helps reduce blood glucose and insulin levels for up to 24 hours post-workout and enhances insulin sensitivity among the elderly. These findings are supported by the Journal of Exercise Science and Fitness.

Boosting immune health

Chronic inflammation is a known driver of various diseases, and managing it is a critical aspect of maintaining health. In this context, weight training plays a pivotal role by boosting the immune system. This enhancement occurs through the production of myokines by the muscles during exercise.

Notably, myokines such as brain-derived-neurotrophic-factor (BDNF), insulin-like-growth-factor 1 (IGF-1), interleukin 6 (IL-6), and irisin, not only have favorable effects on the immune system but are also crucial for neuroplasticity. This is the brain’s ability to form and reorganize synaptic connections.

Practical tips for weight training

Adopting a long-term approach to brain health is essential, and resistance training should be a part of this strategy. To get started and sustain a routine, consider the following tips:

  • Start light, go slow: Begin with lighter weights and gradually increase the intensity. This approach helps prevent injuries and makes the routine enjoyable.
  • Short sessions count: You don’t need to spend hours at the gym; even short daily sessions can yield significant benefits.
  • Explore options: Working with a trainer or joining classes can provide motivation and structure to your workouts.
  • Try resistance bands: These tools offer a versatile way to strengthen muscles and are also linked with improved mood.
  • Protein intake: Ensuring adequate protein consumption is crucial, especially for those new to resistance training, as it supports muscle growth and recovery.

By integrating these practices into your routine, you can enjoy the dual benefits of physical and cognitive health enhancements, making resistance training a smart choice for those looking to protect and improve their brain function.

Weight training and brain health

Engaging in weight training can lead to many improvements in cognitive functions, including enhanced memory, quicker learning, better executive function, and clearer thinking. 

The cognitive benefits of weight training are largely due to increased blood flow to the brain, which in turn helps to nourish brain cells and stimulate the production of growth factors. These chemicals aid in the creation and maintenance of new neural connections.

The act of lifting weights and overcoming resistance can also improve mood and reduce anxiety, thanks to the release of endorphins, often known as “feel-good” hormones. This can lead to improved mental health and resilience, which are important for overall brain function and well-being.

As weight training challenges the body, it also stimulates the brain, especially in terms of motor control and coordination. This helps maintain and enhance neural efficiency even in older adults, demonstrating that weight training can be beneficial across various stages of life for maintaining brain health.

The study is published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.


Like what you read? Subscribe to our newsletter for engaging articles, exclusive content, and the latest updates. 

Check us out on EarthSnap, a free app brought to you by Eric Ralls and


News coming your way
The biggest news about our planet delivered to you each day