There’s no doubt that strength training has many physical benefits, but it may do more than just get you ripped. A new study by the University of Sydney suggests that increased muscle strength leads to improved brain function in adults with Mild Cognitive Impairment, which is a precursor to Alzheimer’s. 

An estimated 135 million people are expected to suffer from dementia in 2050. According to this study’s findings, weightlifting could help keep your brain healthier as you age. 

The study followed 100 adults between the ages of 55 and 86. They were divided into four groups, with each doing one of four things: resistance exercise with cognitive training, resistance exercise with placebo cognitive training, placebo exercise (seated stretching/calisthenics) with cognitive training or placebo exercise with placebo cognitive training. 

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During the trial, a collaboration with the Centre for Healthy Brain Ageing (CHeBA) at University of New South Wales and the University of Adelaide, the lifters trained twice a week for six months at a minimum of 80 percent of their maximum strength. The amount of weight lifted increased as the lifters’ maximum strength increased. 

“The improvement in cognition function was related to their muscle strength gains” said lead author Dr. Yorgi Mavros, faculty member in Health Sciences at University of Sydney, “The stronger people became, the greater the benefit for their brain.”

The benefits of the training even continued to show 12 months after the exercise sessions ended. The key is to do it at least twice a week at a high intensity to maximize your strength gains and benefit your brain, according to Mavros.

“The more we can get people doing resistance training like weight lifting,” Mavros said, “the more likely we are to have a healthier aging population.”

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