Pump up your brain with this twice-a-week trick
We all get those "brain burps."
Most of the time, they're nothing to worry about. We all lose our keys now and then. Everybody walks out of the grocery store without the one thing that they went in for in the first place.
You've got to have a sense of humor about these little lapses. We're only human, after all.
But if you think your memory may be starting to really slide... if those "senior moments" are becoming more the rule than the exception... don't ignore it.
There may be no "cure" for these cognitive impairments that could be an early indicator of dementia or even Alzheimer's, but that doesn't mean there's nothing you can do to help.
And, according to a new study, there's one easy way to keep yourself of strong mind AND body.
In a recent randomized trial conducted by University of Sydney, older adults who did some weight training just two or three times a week showed significant improvement in cognitive function.
Not only did they gain muscle strength and aerobic capacity (a measure of how efficiently your body uses oxygen during exercise), but they also had sharper minds.
It was as though their brains got stronger as they increased the strength of their bodies!
And all it took was keeping that light activity up for just six months for the benefits to last a year AFTER the study ended.
I should note that the folks in the study had already been diagnosed with mild cognitive impairment (MCI)... so any improvement in their cognitive strength was a big deal.
But even if you haven't shown any signs of MCI yourself, there's no reason not to work a little strength training into your routine. File this under: Why not?
It makes a lot of sense that that pumping iron can beef up your brain, considering what we already know about exercise and brain health.
The connection between regular physical activity and a reduced risk of Alzheimer's is well established. In one study that I recently shared with you, brisk walking literally made people's brains THICKER!
Now, don't let the idea of "weight training" scare you off. We're not talking about trying to become a bodybuilder here.
In fact, participants in the study lifted weights at just 80 percent of their individual strength capacity.
If you've ever done physical therapy, you may have had your strength capacity tested -- but most of us don't really know our limits until we've surpassed them and ended up in pain.
So, start out small to avoid injury. Pretty much any sporting goods store sells little hand weights that weigh as little as a pound. You can gradually work your way up from there.
I always try to encourage my older patients to take advantage of the group fitness activities at their local senior center, if they live near one. Joining a group keeps you accountable and helps you maintain a regular schedule -- and it can be a really good social activity, too.
And meeting new people and learning new things is also a great (and fun) way to combat MCI.
Can Strength Training Improve Mild Cognitive Impairment?