How Weight Training Improves Cognitive Health

It’s no secret that weight lifting provides numerous benefits to your health. The physical benefits of weight lifting are well known, from toned musculature to an improved physique, increased bone density, and better stamina. The mental and cognitive health benefits from weight lifting are less well-known but equally as impactful. This article will cover the cognitive side of the benefits of taking regular weight lifting exercises.

Decreased Depression

Unfortunately, much scientific and academic literature has focused on the physical benefits of exercise and neglected the mental side. Nevertheless, a meta-study of over 30 clinical trials measuring depressive symptoms found that resistance exercise training was associated with a significant reduction in depressive symptoms. This means that weight training and resistance training have a proven effect on helping to reduce the symptoms of depression. For those currently struggling with depression, picking up even a simple exercise routine involving weight lifting can provide relief from depression through developing a routine, achieving goals, and exercising itself.

What is particularly interesting is that the study found the most significant benefits in those with ‘mild-to-moderate’ depressive symptoms compared to those without. This suggests that the decrease in depressive symptoms through weight lifting is more pronounced in those with more significant depressive symptoms than those without.

Reduced Anxiety

Resistance exercise and weight lifting have also been linked to reducing anxiety in young adults. Participants who took part in resistance exercises and weight lifting reported a significant decrease in anxiety symptoms than the control group, who did not engage in any weight lifting. What’s more is that participants only exercised twice a week during the study, indicating that an intensive exercise regime is not required to reap the benefits of anxiety reduction. Simply taking part in weight lifting twice a week was enough to experience a significant decrease in anxiety.

Improved mood and well-being

These improvements in cognitive health are not limited to young adults – studies have shown that older adults who engage in regular exercise reap the same advantages to their overall cognitive and mental health as young adults. The study showed that while different types of exercise provided various specific benefits, there was an overall improvement in cognitive health in participants who partook in activity compared to the control group, who did not participate in any exercise.

How to work out from home or the office

Hopefully, this article has demonstrated the cognitive health benefits of regular weight training and exercise. Notably, many of these studies found that intensive exercise regimes were not necessary to reap these benefits – as little as two sessions per week was enough in some cases. For those currently suffering from mental health issues, the pressure of keeping to a consistent, intensive regime may be off-putting, so it’s beneficial to realize that workouts don’t have to be such a time-consuming endeavor.

Those suffering from anxiety or depression may also find it a daunting or difficult task to join a gym to start weight training. Fortunately, you don’t have to join a gym to start weight training. There are plenty of good at-home workouts that you can do with minimal equipment. Below are some suggested weight training regimes suitable for beginners and easy enough to do from home or the office.

With weights

You don’t need many different weights or the fanciest equipment to create a good lifting regime. Dumbbells are an excellent choice for at-home workouts – they’re relatively small and take up minimal room, so you can quickly get them out for an activity in the living room and put them away when you’re done. The regime below is an excellent workout for those who have dumbbells:

  • 10 goblin squats x 3 sets
  • 10 side bends x 3 sets
  • 10 calf raises x 3 sets
  • 10 forward lunges x 3 sets
  • 10 bent over rows x 3 sets
  • 10 deadlifts x 3 sets
  • 10 bicep curls x 3 sets

At first, go at your own pace, but once you feel ready to challenge yourself, try to take no more than 20 seconds rest between sets and no rest between exercises.

With resistance bands

If you don’t have access to dumbbells, then resistance bands provide a good alternative that don’t take up much room and can provide workouts of similar intensity. Below is a workout that can easily be done at home or the office:

  • Resistance Band Pull-Through: 12 x 3 sets
  • Squat + Low Single-Arm Row: 10 x 3 sets (each side)
  • Squat + Single-Arm Shoulder Press: 8 x 3 sets (each side)
  • Low-to-High Cable Chop + Pallof Press: 10 x 3 sets (each side)
  • Banded Good Morning: 15 x 3 sets
  • Plank + Banded Kick Back: 6 x 3 sets (each side)
  • Bicep Curl + Tricep Extension 1:2: 6-12 x 3 sets (per side, curl:extension ratio)

Bodyweight

If you have no weight training equipment, fret not! You can still get in a solid workout using your bodyweight. These exercises are easy and need nothing more than a spare room. Below is a bodyweight exercise regime that is best done 2-3 times a week.

  • 1A. Squat variation: Bodyweight squat, jump squats
  • 1B. Push variation: Incline push-up, push-up
  • 1C. Single leg exercise: Reverse lunge, forward lunge, or side lunge (Alternating sides)
  • 1D. Pull variation: Bodyweight IYT or other TRX row, isometric towel row, or you can get under a table or other stable surface for an inverted row.
  • 1E. Core: Alternating side plank, mountain climbers, or Front plank.

Each exercise in the list is cumulatively considered a circuit. Go through each training in the list once to complete a circuit and then complete 2-4 circuits for a full workout.

Regardless of which workout you choose, don’t forget to take sufficient time off to rest! Pushing yourself to exercise too much or too often can be detrimental – rest and recovery time is essential.

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