The term cognitive impairment is a “catch-all” term to describe any impairment to cognition which is the mental action or process of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience, and the senses. Cognitive impairment includes deficits in intelligence, learning disabilities such as dyslexia, memory loss, attention deficits, and deficits in executive function to name a few. Mild cognitive impairment is increasingly being used as a term to describe a condition that is more than age related memory loss but less than dementia. It is being viewed as a precursor condition to dementia. No matter the cause, I think we all should guard against any impairment in brain health and recent research has found resistance exercise good for brain health.
This study was actually published in 2016 and I came across it while reading up on references for a recent post on this blog. This study looked at 100 adults over the age of 55 with mild cognitive impairment. The researchers put them through a progressive resistance training program and measured their aerobic capacity as well as cognitive status. The authors found that high‐intensity resistance exercise resulted in a significant improvement in cognitive function, muscle strength, and aerobic capacity in older adults with mild cognitive impairment. They also concluded that the strength gains had a larger affect on reversing cognitive impatient than aerobic capacity.
This study shows that high intensity strength training improves strength but it also improves cognitive function. While they did not specifically study aerobic exercise they did measure aerobic activity. In their data, improvements in aerobic capacity did not correlate with improvements in cognitive function but strength gains did. Leading them to conclude that strength training, potentially, has a greater impact on improving cognitive function than aerobic exercise.
We all know that exercise is important for our health. We can all make excuses for why we don’t exercise, strength training especially, but those excuses are cheating ourselves out of our health and quality of life. We are all living longer than ever before, how do you want to live out your last decade? I have had grandparents spend their final years with dementia and I don’t want to go that way. If starting a program at 55+ can improve mild cognitive impairment what would starting an exercise program at 40 do to protect from any decline in brain health? My take away from this paper is to exercise regularly, aerobic and strength training, so you can live a high quality of life no matter how long you live.
Do you need help with implementing an effective exercise routine? We can help provide some guidance in where to start and what to do.