Do Bodybuilders Know Something We Don’t?

guy doing tractor tire training

Maybe you’ve heard the studies that say cardio exercise can lead to a healthier brain and improve your heart function; however, there isn’t so much information that talks about any links between weight lifting and the brain. More people are being told that they need to incorporate weight training into their workout routine, but we should be discussing how resistance exercise effects on brain function.

Although there isn’t much research in this topic, there have been a few studies that have focused on the effects of weight lifting and the brain, and what kind of benefits it has.

The Journal of American Geriatrics Society published a study that examined how light weight affected the lesions and age-related holes on the brain’s white matter—which is the substance that connects and passes messages from one brain region to the next.

Boosting Memory

As you would imagine, these lesions are going to become larger as we age. Eventually, it could lead to problems with your memory. To test this theory, the researchers used three groups to study the effects of exercise (namely weight training) had on the lesions.

The first group of participants were to follow a once-weekly light training program where they focused on upper and lower weight lifting exercises. With the second group, they would be tested for the same things and use the same program, except they were told to do it twice a week.

The third group was acting as a control group and they focused on doing balancing and stretching exercises. This study required the participants to do this for a year.

At the end of the year, the study showed that the first group and the control group had a significant increase in how many white matter lesions they had. This leads to sustained memory and brain function. It would appear that there needs to be a minimum threshold of exercise to be achieved before you start reaping the benefits on the brain by lifting weights.

Benefits of Lifting Weights On the Brain

So you might be asking yourself the question “is lifting weights good for you?” and the answer to that is a resounding yes. Not only will you lose weight, tone up, and become stronger, but it can have a dramatic impact on your brain, and here’s how.

You Will Be Smarter

There was a study that was presented at the Canadian Cardiovascular Congress that discovered that people who exercised had a higher mental acuity than those who did not. This study shows the primary effects of all exercise, but there’s been studies that indicate that with weight training, your brain functions better than with just doing cardio.

Fight Depression

According to Adam Campbell wrote in the Men’s Health Big Book of Exercises that lifting weights can help improve your mood. To support the claim, he cites research that was conducted at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. The researchers had participants perform weight training exercises three times a week for 6 months.

Fight Depression with fitness

At the end of that study, participants scores improved significantly on a test that measured anger. Also, The University of Sydney did a research that proves that lifting weights on a regular basis reduces the symptoms of depression in clinically diagnosed patients by 60%.

Boosting Memory

Weight lifting and the brain have been shown to be able to boost your memory and cognitive skills. In a study, two groups of women were asked to exercise—one group would just work on toning while the others who had exercised shown to perform better on almost all cognitive tests. Also, what’s unique in these results is that strength training can also benefit your associative memory, both of which are sensitive to the effects of aging and reduce the risk of Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

How Strength Training Can Benefit The Elderly

Some people who are interested in improving their brain’s function often have the question, “is weightlifting healthy for elderly people?” and to that we say yes. There have been research conducted that shows that even the briefest of exercises can improve your memory because your body releases a stress hormone called norepinephrine. This hormone has been known to play a big role in a person’s memory.

Fit Elder Men working out in the park

There was a study conducted in 2013 by the University of British Columbia that examined the impact of resistance training in the areas of conflict resolution and memory in female participants between 70 to 80 years old who suffered from mild cognitive impairment (MCI). MCI is a condition where the individual has memory problems but these problems aren’t severe enough to interfere with everyday life, despite it being consider a very early stage of Alzheimer’s.

Strength training can help stave off these effects of memory loss, but it can also reduce the risk of cardiac death by 41% and reduce the risk of dying from cancer by 19%.

Which Is Better, Strength Training or Cardio?

Exercise is great for your body and your mind, but if you’re wondering which is going to give your brain an extra boost, you’re going to want to go with cardio.

There’s a study where 59 men and women were in one of two programs—aerobic program or a strength training and stretching program. After only six months, brain scans showed that those who did aerobics had more activity in the frontal cortex of the brain—the region that is responsible for planning and long term memory.

couple doing barbell lunges in the gym

Not only that, but the parietal cortex and the bottom of the spatial orientation (both of which are associated with cognitive decline in the elderly).


When it comes to weight lifting and the brain it’s pretty obvious that it is going to improve and sustain healthy brain function. However, when you combine weight lifting with cardio, you’ll find that you’ll be in the best shape of your life—physically and mentally!

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