TOKYO, April 15 — To keep the brain healthy, experts often recommend reading or doing crossword puzzles, but exercise could also help keep your neurons in shape. In fact, a study published in the journal Brain and Behaviour claims that resistance training can have beneficial effects on brain function.

Researchers at Tohoku University in Japan made this discovery after conducting a two-stage experiment with 60 young adults. First, the volunteers were asked to learn lists of words, before performing three sets of eight leg flexion and extension exercises at 80 per cent strength. Two days after this resistance training session, the participants were asked to recall as many words as possible.

It turned out that the young adults who had undergone the training session remembered more words than those in the control group, i.e. those who had not done any resistance training two days earlier. In their research paper, the scientists conclude that “a single bout, short duration, and high-intensity resistance training could improve memory and hippocampal connectivity after a few days in young adults.”


So how might this phenomenon be explained? The authors of this research analysed the participants’ neuronal activity using a functional MRI scanner. This revealed that the volunteers who had taken part in the mini-workout showed greater brain plasticity. The left posterior part of their hippocampus — the region of the brain involved in memorisation — communicated more with the parietal and occipital cortices, two areas that play crucial roles in sensory information processing.

This increased neuroplasticity could be due to the release, during physical effort, of proteins that stimulate the development of new neurons and preserve existing ones. Previous studies have shown that running generates neuronal growth, but until now the scientific community was unaware that short, intense sessions of physical activity could potentially have similar benefits.

While the findings of this study are promising, the researchers point out that not all participants saw their memory capacity improve in the two days following their resistance training session. Whatever the case, there’s no doubt that resistance training is good for your health. So slip on your sneakers and get ready to stretch your physical — and cognitive — limits! — ETX Studio