Weight training could be the answer to Alzheimer's

Deborah Acason of Australia lifts at the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games. Ryan Pierse/Getty Images

High intensity weight training could be prescribed in the fight against dementia, according to research from the University of Sydney.

The study reveals that resistance training improves the mental abilities of older people with mild cognitive impairment, a common precursor to dementia.

Professor Maria Fiatarone Singh, a geriatrician from the Faculty of Health Sciences, said the research demonstrates the potential of exercise to reduce dementia risk.

“We know weight training stimulates hormones that make muscles grow and it’s possible these hormones are also having similar benefits for brain function,” said Professor Fiatarone Singh.

Six months of weight training showed significant improvements in abilities related to planning, organising and devising strategies and visual memory. The improvements were still there one year after supervised training stopped.

“The next step is to see how long this lasts and who benefits most from such exercise,” Professor Fiatarone Singh said.

The researchers will follow the group for up to five years to see if they were able to delay or even prevent the onset of dementia.

Forecasts indict 135 million people will be affected by dementia globally by 2050.

One hundred people took part in the study which compared the effects of weight training, computer-based brain training and a combination of the two for people aged over 60 experiencing the memory and processing deficits associated with mild cognitive impairment.

Only the weight training group improved on the Alzheimer’s Disease Assessment Scale-Cognitive Subscale test, a series of memory and brain function tests used to evaluate cognitive health and the stages of Alzheimer’s disease.

The study, undertaken by a consortium of Australian researchers, is published in the Journal of the American Medical Directors Association.

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