The Zoomer Report: Weight Training and Mental Sharpness

Here’s another piece of evidence about the benefits of exercise as we age. This tidbit is pretty specific. According to researchers at the University of British Columbia, weight training can keep you mentally sharp as well as improve your strength and mobility.

Previous studies have found that aerobic exercise such as walking and swimming is beneficial, yet few have looked at how brain health is affected by resistance training aimed at building and strengthening muscles and bone.

In a study of women aged 65 to 75, the researchers found those assigned to a year of once- or twice-weekly resistance-training programs showed measurable improvement in cognitive ability. And they weren’t being compared to couch potatoes — but to women who did a balance and toning routine twice a week. The women in the weight training group improved nearly 13 per cent in attention and decision-making tests, while those in the balance group regressed slightly.

The program involved exercising on resistance-training machines and using free weights, with the amount of weight and repetitions steadily increased over time. The participants started with simple squats and graduated to lunges and lunge walks.

Statistics show few older people engage in strength training, even though it also protects against osteoporosis. But the researchers say this should probably be a Zoomer’s chosen method of exercise, and more community programs should offer it.

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About The Zoomer Report

Libby ZnaimerLibby Znaimer, a prominent Canadian journalist specializing in business, politics, and lifestyle issues, is producer and host of The Zoomer Report, a special feature on topics of interest to baby boomers and the 50+. It covers everything from health and wealth to leisure and volunteerism, from the special vantage point of the generation that has changed society in its wake.

Ms. Znaimer is also Vice-President of News and Information for Classical 96.3FM and AM740. Her first book, “In Cancerland – Living Well Is The Best Revenge” – was published in October 2007 by Key Porter.

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