Monday, December 9, 2019

Becoming a Gym Rat

It’s time to jump back on that Peloton. Now that the world has risen up en masse to denounce the appalling sexism of a husband who wants his wife to improve her mental and physical well-being, we learn of new experiments about how weight training affects brain development.

Gretchen Reynolds has the story for the New York Times. To introduce the topic she notes the clear evidence that aerobic conditioning improves brain function. That is, it blocks the brain mechanism that contributes to onset of dementia and senility. This tells us that someone ought to send a new Peloton to Joe Biden.

Anyway, Reynolds summarizes the clear research findings for human subjects:

But a wealth of helpful past research indicates that regular aerobic exercise, such as walking or jogging, can prop up memory and cognition. In these studies, which have involved people and animals, aerobic exercise generally increases the number of new neurons created in the brain’s memory center and also reduces inflammation. Unchecked, inflammation in the brain may contribute to the development of dementia and other neurodegenerative conditions.

When it comes to weight training, the jury is still out. Recent experiments used rodent subjects. Apparently, this suggests that rat people will improve their cognitive functioning by lifting weights more often. As for the rest of the human species, we have not yet done enough research.

Reynolds writes:

Weight training may have benefits for brain health, at least in rats. When rats lift weights, they gain strength and also change the cellular environment inside their brains, improving their ability to think, according to a notable new study of resistance training, rodents and the workings of their minds.

The study finds that weight training, accomplished in rodents with ladders and tiny, taped-on weights, can reduce or even reverse aspects of age-related memory loss. The finding may have important brain-health implications for those of us who are not literal gym rats.

Yes, indeed, beyond the aerobic conditioning, you can improve your brain function and mental dexterity by becoming a gym rat. 

What would we do without science?

[See also this link from the Good News Network, via Maggie's Farm. It explains how drug treatment can reverse dementia in mice.)

1 comment:

UbuMaccabee said...

A little note for Hanukkah. When Mattathias struck down, first the leftist Jew, and then the Greek commissioner, slaying them both, and next tore down the pagan altar, it took some upper body strength to do that. Those guys were fit. Whosoever is zealous of the law, and maintaineth the covenant, let him first go to the gym and perform squats and deadlifts so as to have the strength and stamina to fight an army of Greek Selucids and their war elephants. Going to the gym is not about having a longer life so much as ensuring your enemies have shorter ones. Strength is power, and the only thing the left understands is power.