Are there exercises to ward off dementia?By GRETCHEN REYNOLDS
I am 66 years old and exercise three to four times a week. How much more or what kind of exercise should I do in addition to cardio to maintain brain health and ward off dementia?
Reader Question • 1003 votes
You might want to add several weight-training sessions every week. Endurance exercise is undoubtedly good for the brain, with studies in lab animals showing that moderate aerobic exercise, the equivalent of jogging, doubles or even triples the number of new neurons in the brain’s memory center, compared with the brains of sedentary animals. So keep up the cardio training.
But other recent science suggests that resistance training also has brain benefits that may be unique, meaning that if you don’t lift weights, you could be missing out.
In a particularly relevant 2012 study, rats with weights tied to their tails climbed ladders to simulate resistance training, while others ran on little treadmills or didn’t exercise. After eight weeks, both exercise groups performed much better than the sedentary animals on a memory test, but the brains of the weight-lifting and treadmill-running rats were subtly different. The weight trainers showed higher levels of one particular brain protein than the runners or the sedentary animals, and the runners’ brains now displayed higher levels of another protein.
Both substances are thought to spark the creation of new connections in the brain and improve the health of existing ones. So having more of either protein is desirable for brain health, but it appears that the surest way to have more of both is to practice both endurance and weight training.