Building up muscles boosts brain power as well as physical power for pensioners, according to a new study.
Researchers found increased muscle strength leads to improved brain function in adults with mild cognitive impairment (MCI).
People with MCI are at an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia.
With 135 million people forecast to suffer from dementia by 2050, researchers say their findings have implications for the type and intensity of exercise that is recommended for the growing ageing population.
MCI defines people who have noticeably reduced cognitive abilities such as poorer memory, but are still able to live independently.
The new findings, published in the Journal of American Geriatrics, show, for the first time, a “positive causal link” between muscle adaptations to progressive resistance training and the functioning of the brain among people over 55 with MCI.
Study lead author Doctor Yorgi Mavros, of the University of Sydney in Australia, said: “What we found is that the improvement in cognition function was related to their muscle strength gains.
“The stronger people became, the greater the benefit for their brain.”
The trial involved 100 adults aged between 55 and 86 with MCI.
Doctor Mavros said: “The more we can get people doing resistance training like weight lifting, the more likely we are to have a healthier ageing population.
“The key however is to make sure you are doing it frequently, at least twice a week, and at a high intensity so that you are maximising your strength gains. This will give you the maximum benefit for your brain.”
Doctor Mavros said the latest findings reinforce research from a trial published earlier this year, whereby MRI scans showed an increase in the size of specific areas of the brain among those who took part in the weight training programme. The brain changes were linked to the cognitive improvements after weight lifting.