Walking and Strength Training Make Your Brain Stronger


Can’t find your cell phone?—it’s probably right where you left it. But if you often have trouble remembering where that is, trying going for a jog or a challenging walk first. Numerous recent published experiments show that both strength training and cardio exercise increase levels of brainbuilding proteins.

In one study published in The Journal of Aging Research, scientists recruited 86 women ages 70 to 80 who had mild cognitive impairment, a condition that makes a person’s memory and thinking more jumbled than would be expected at her/his age. Mild cognitive impairment is also a recognized risk factor for increasing dementia and increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

The researchers randomly assigned their volunteers to six months of supervised exercise. One group lifted weights twice a week. Another group walked briskly. And a control group stretched and toned instead of doing any of the two types of endurance exercise.

At the beginning and end of the six months, the women underwent tests to study their verbal and spatial memory. Verbal memory includes your ability to remember words, and spatial memory is your memory of how thing are placed in space. Both decline the older you get, and this loss is exaggerated in people with mild cognitive impairment.

After six months, the women in the third group that did neither of the types of endurance exercise scored worse on the memory tests than they had when the study began, which means their cognitive impairment had increased. But the group of women who had done walking or strength training scored better on almost all of the memory tests than they had when the study began.

Find A Sport

To beat the routine of exercise, play a sport; here are some ideas: basketball, softball, tennis, flag football, American handball, pickleball, racquetball, ultimate frisbee, roller-blading, fencing, climbing, and golf (walking, not carting). To find people to play sports with, search for your particular sport or just type in “sports league” at www.yelp.com or www.meetup.com. Also try contacting your city recreation department or local YMCA.

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