Weightlifting Could Pump Up Your Brain, Multitasking Not So Much [Study]

Weightlifting for just 20 minutes a day could boost memory by 10 percent according to a new Georgia Institute of Technology study.

Leglifts were the exercise employed by the researchers in this inquiry.

Participants in the study described as 46 healthy young adults tried to remember 90 photos displayed on a computer monitor. Half of the group then did 50 reps of leg extensions, the other cohort (i.e., the control group) just sat in the chair and let the machine do all the work. They returned to the lab two days later to view 180 photos (90 from the prior session and 90 new images).

The leg extension group, it turned out, was also able to extend their memory. They were able to recall about 60 percent of the photos from the previous session, while the control group could only remember 50 percent.

“Our study indicates that people don’t have to dedicate large amounts of time to give their brain a boost,” said project leader Lisa Weinberg, a Georgia Tech grad student, about the 10 percent improvement in memory between the two groups.

Despite its negative connotations, stress is evidently a factor in improved memory. “Researchers explain that people are more likely to remember experiences after undergoing acute stress, which weight lifting provides. What’s more, they say it should also work with bodyweight strength moves like squats, lunges, and pushups,” Women’s Health summarized.

In addition to this study and other similar ones, “Exercise also reduces insulin resistance, inflammation, stimulates the release of growth factors — chemicals in the brain that affect brain cells’ health — promotes growth of new blood vessels, and even helps to create new brain cells,” Medical Daily observed.

The Georgia Tech study, published in the November issue of the Acta Psychologica journal, concluded, “There are many potential therapeutic benefits of resistance exercise, both physical and cognitive, like the episodic memory benefit we have shown here. Unlike moderate long-term aerobic exercise, single bouts of resistance exercise are easy for a wide range of people with variable levels of physical ability to perform. We are not suggesting that single bouts of resistance exercise can replace the obvious health and cognitive benefits incurred from long-term aerobic interventions.”

Resistance exercises include weightlifting, pushup and situps, and scientists have previously identified memory benefits inherent in aerobic and resistance exercises.

The researchers recommended further research into the memory benefits of a long-term exercise program, especially for older adults who are more at risk of cognitive decline.

Separately, researchers in Britain claim that on a preliminary basis, multitasking with your electronic devices might shrink your memory given their prevalence in our limited attention span society.

Based on MRI scans, the University of Sussex study of 75 adults suggested that those who used devices like cell phones and computers simultaneously while watching TV and so forth “had smaller grey matter density” in the region of the brain where cognitive function takes place. “Media multitasking is becoming more prevalent in our lives today and there is increasing concern about its impacts on our cognition and social-emotional well-being. Our study was the first to reveal links between media multitasking and brain structure,” researcher Kep Kee Loh observed. The findings were published in the PLUS ONE journal.

On a more positive note for brain health, although unrelated to memory as The Inquisitr previously reported, those who are spiritual or religious may have a thicker outer layer of their brain, and therefore, may be less prone to depression, according to a study published earlier this year in the JAMA Psychiatry journal.

If you lift weights, are you primarily motivated by the physical or mental benefits?

[image credit: neurowiki2013]