CrossFitters, Rejoice: Lifting Weights Protects Your Brain

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There are ample reasons to strength train: Lifting makes you faster, is great for weight loss, and helps keep you injury-free. Add to that increased brain health. According to new research from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, weights have been shown to help protect your brain from age-related decline.

As we get older, our brains suffer: lesions and holes develop that can shrink down our white matter, prompting the cognitive decline that slows our ability to think, reason, and create. And while exercise has long been thought to prevent the slide, most of the research has prescribed cardio — running, walking. This latest study put strength training to the test. The authors split a number of older women into three groups: lifting twice per week, once per week, or a control group that focused on improving balance and flexibility.

After a year, the researchers looked at side-by-side, before-and-after brain scans. The results (which can be readily applied to men) were undeniable — the brains of those who lifted twice per week had far fewer and smaller lesions than those who strength trained just once weekly and those in the control group.

The takeaway here? Lifting every once in a while doesn’t cut it to protect your brain (or do much for any other part of your body, for that matter). “A minimum threshold of exercise needs to be achieved,” lead researcher Teresa Liu-Ambrose told The New York Times. But with all the benefits your weight routine is racking up, that twice-a-week quota is a pretty easy sell.