This Is What Strength Training Does to Your Brain

We know that as a general rule, exercise is a simple (and cheap!) way to keep your mind sharp. But while research has largely focused specifically on the mental benefits of cardio (you might have seen that runner's-high study that came out a few weeks ago), scientists have just learned what strength training has to offer the brain—and it's a lot.

Weird fact: As we age, our brains actually "shrink"we get holes and lesions in certain sections of our gray matter. But new research from the University of British Columbia shows that weight training can help prevent this. Of a group of women tested over the course of a year, those who only trained with weights once a week or not at all showed these age-related lesions on their brains. However, the women who used weights twice a week had significantly less wear and tear on their brains, leading scientists to confirm not only  this connection between strength training and brain aging but the minimum amount of time required to see these effects as well.

Of course, exercise isn't the only factor in keeping the brain young—in fact, another study coincidentally surfaced this week touting the Mediterranean diet (surprise, surprise) as an effective way to prevent shrinkage over time. In a group of study participants, those who adhered closely to a diet rich in vegetables, legumes, fish, and healthy fats had brains that appeared five years younger than those of participants who didn't at the end of the study. 

So there you have it: A science-approved blueprint of how to keep your mind sharp for as long as possible. Time to start familiarizing yourself with your gym's weight room if you haven't already—and take the excuse to eat some really fresh Italian food on a regular basis. (At the very least, consider an omega-3 supplement, which will boost your focus and your mood. We like Nordic Naturals' Omega-3 Soft Gels, $37.)

What do you think of these studies? Have you found major benefits with strength training? Sound off in the comments below!