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An Emerging and Important Non-Strength Benefit of Strength Training

Dr. Teresa Liu-Ambrose is doing some of the most interesting and important research currently taking place in the field of exercisescience. Dr. Liu-Ambrose’s research focuses on the impact of exercise and specifically, strength training, on brain function. Her most recent study, published just a few weeks ago in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society (and covered in an excellent article by Gretchen Reynolds of the New York Times (Lifting Weights, Twice a Week, May Aid the Brain), investigates the impact of strength training on “white matter lesions.” Specifically, the study sought to determine whether or not strength training could slow the progression of white matter lesions on the brains of older women. Researchers divided subjects into three groups: (1) twice-per week strength training; (2) once-per week strength training; and (3) a group who did stretching and balance exercises only.
Liu-Ambrose and her colleagues concluded that strength training twice per week (but not stretching and balance exercises) reduced the progression of white matter lesions in older women. Her next focus is to understand how slowing the progression of these lesions via strength training impacts executive function.
Take Home Message: We are not strength training for your muscles alone. We are strength training for our brains.

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