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The Neuroscience of Weight Lifting

By Batista Gremaud


Exercise affects brain health. Extensive research has been done on this hot topic because it helps us understand how to live a healthier life and treat various conditions like stroke, Alzheimer's disease, depression, and mental health.



Dementia today is the most widespread neurodegenerative disease globally. According to a recent study, it is estimated that there have been 24.3 million reported cases worldwide, with 4.6 million new cases appearing every year. Being physically active is associated with a 28% reduction in an individual's risk of developing the disease. Add strength training, and the percentage goes up significantly.


Research shows that exercise produces neuroplasticity.


What Is Neuroplasticity


Neuroplasticity is the brain's ability to rearrange its neural pathways in response to experience. This process allows the brain to adapt and learn new information. Neuroplasticity occurs throughout life and is the basis for many forms of learning, affecting mental health and cognition.


Interest in this field of study is categorized into three main areas:

  • The relationship between exercise and neurodegenerative disorders such as dementia, Parkinson's, and Alzheimer's.

  • The effects of exercise on depressive disorders, mood behaviors, and mental health.

  • The effects of exercise on general health and anti-aging


Positive responses to regular physical activity include

  • Reduced risk of developing various lifestyle diseases such as hypertension, cardiovascular diseases, and diabetes,

  • Improved muscle and bone health

  • Enhanced functional capacity

  • increased autonomy

  • Improved self-esteem

  • Reduced stress and anxiety

  • Greater productivity

  • Improved sleep quality and energy levels

  • Increased mindfulness and improved psychological outlook


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How Different Exercise Types Affect Brain Health


Strength training is essential for maintaining a healthy brain. Without the stimulation provided by strength training, the brain will shrink and degenerate, leading to conditions such as dementia, Alzheimer's, sarcopenia, and osteoporosis because, without this stimulation, the brain's synapses disconnect and stop firing even if you eat correctly, rest, and do other exercise modalities, such as Yoga, aerobics, or walking. These activities affect the cerebellum part of the brain responsible for endurance and routine activities, using white muscle fibers and little oxygen.


However, strength training uses red muscle fibers responsible for developing strength. In addition, the strength training process stimulates the brain's frontal cortex, which is responsible for complex cognitive behaviors such as decision-making, reasoning, and emotional intelligence.

Training your muscles to work together requires using the deeper brain center, activated by strength training, which teaches your brain to utilize both muscle fibers simultaneously.


Additionally, many red muscle fibers in the larger muscle groups impact the autonomic nervous system, which controls blood pressure, pulse, ability to create new cells, and lifespan.


Strength training helps to improve your cells and make them more resilient to last longer, enhancing overall health and fitness.


Strength training is one of the best ways to stay in shape and combat the effects of aging.


It's the most effective way to strengthen bones, reduce body fat, and improve physical and mental health. Yet, despite these benefits, many people are still resistant to it, which can be understandable depending on the individual's level of hesitancy or misguided facts that feed their faulty belief system.


 

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Why Do People Resist Strength Training?


For some, strength training may conjure images of a harsh gym environment with intimidating equipment. Others may worry they are not fit enough to take part or that they'll injure themselves. Fear and resistance to change can also be a factor, as many people find comfort in sticking to familiar routines. It can be particularly daunting for seniors who may believe that lifting weights can strain joints and bones. Lack of knowledge and education leads people to choose the wrong activities, believe media portrayals that you only strength train to look like a model, or have an unhealthy attitude towards looking good because of low self-esteem.


Those who avoid working out due to lack of time or because they feel they are not worth it do not realize the gravity of their situation. Without regular exercise, their health may decline rapidly and face serious health consequences.


The good news is that with proper guidance, strength training can bring you 360° full circle back to greater health and a stronger you at any age.

 

Batista Gremaud is the CEO and president of Dr Fitness International, an International Body Designer, Strength Training Expert, No1 Best Selling author of Feminine Body Design, Empowering Fitness For A Pain-Free Life, co-creator of the Feminine Body Design online strength training mentoring system, and producer of Dr Fitness USA’s THE SHOW


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