Note from Carolyn:
This is a great article on the benefits of exercise for mental health.
Article continues ...
As you get older, it's perfectly normal to worry about your memory. Missing a grandchild's birthday, forgetting to pick up the wine before a dinner party...those little slips could be the first signs of cognitive impairment.
But that doesn't mean you're doomed to the decline. You might just need to hit the gym.
Holding on to your memory could simply be a matter of getting enough exercise. Not just any exercise, though. Women who did aerobic training and stretching in one study might have improved their balance and heart function, but they didn't show any improvement in their memories.
No--for a boost in brain power, you're going to need to pump some iron.
Women with mild cognitive impairment who participated in twice-weekly weight training showed significantly improved memories after six months. This was compared with a control group that worked on balance and toning and the group that did aerobic training (a walking program).
The women in the weight training program were all aged 70 to 80. They used machines and free weights. The effects of the program were dramatic enough that the researchers called exercise a "promising strategy" for controlling decline in memory.
The Stroop Test measures a variety of mental functions including working memory and everyday problem solving. The women who lifted weights performed better on the test than women who did other kinds of exercise programs.
Not bad, right? A better mind and better fitness all thanks to lifting a few weights a couple of times per week!
Now, this study followed only older women. The role of weight training in memory hasn't been explored yet in younger women or in men.
But all the same, if you'll excuse me, I think I hear some free weights calling my name...it's never too early (or too late, really) to get started on a healthy course, right?