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How Weightlifting Boosts Cognitive Function

Exercise is one of the best ways to increase our lifespan and delay health deterioration.

While plenty of evidence exists to support the positive effect of exercise on longevity and overall health support, new research articles are regularly published that strengthen these claims.

A recent example, reminding us of the importance of hitting the gym, can be found in a narrative review published in The Journals of Gerontology, Series A.

The Link Between Skeletal Muscle and Cognitive Function

In this extensive review, the authors discuss a well-established connection between sarcopenia, an age-related condition resulting in the loss of muscle mass and strength, and dementia.

The review looks at data from more than one hundred publications linking physical performance, muscle strength, and cognition, the physiological and biochemical links between the brain and skeletal muscles, and the underlying pathophysiological mechanisms of cognitive decline.

However, the authors note that even though all this data exists regarding the links between dementia and sarcopenia, the causality and mechanisms involved are still not fully understood. The published review seeks to connect those dots by synthesizing that data.

This published review evaluates the evidence to study four mechanisms connected to the underlying link between cognitive decline and skeletal muscle mass with age. Those mechanisms include:

  • insulin resistance

  • systemic inflammation

  • mitochondrial dysfunction

  • abnormal protein buildup

Through their research, the authors sought to show how muscle loss may connect and contribute to these four physiological processes and, ultimately, to a decline in cognitive function.

Where's the link?

It is essential to recognize that skeletal muscle represents much more than workhorse tissue necessary for movement. Skeletal muscle is an endocrine organ that releases various proteins and peptides (myokines) acting like signaling molecules to different body parts.

Certain myokines, like cathepsin B, cross blood-brain barriers to affect neuro-pathways directly. Other myokines have an anti-inflammatory effect systemically and specifically on the brain.

BDNF, another muscle-generated myokine, promotes gene expression critical in maintaining healthy mitochondria and reducing oxidative stress, which impacts muscle protein breakdown and synthesis.

The downstream effect of myokines includes triggering the release of additional myokines, which creates a helpful feedback loop that amplifies their effects.

Conversely, physical inactivity inhibits myokine release.

So, if you want to keep that positive myokine feedback loop going, you'll want to keep working out!

The authors of this review hypothesize that physical inactivity and muscle loss result in decreased myokine secretion, triggering a disruptive spiral that ultimately results in cognitive decline.

Therefore, weightlifting and strengthening muscle don't just provide a health boost; it is necessary to maintain baseline levels of health.

On the other hand, physical inactivity will impair the processes outlined above and cause declines in your overall health and cognitive functionality.

Another Causality Puzzle Piece

Most direct evidence associating an impaired cognitive function with lower muscle mass is found in epidemiology studies that rarely demonstrate causality. Yet, we can infer causality with reasonable confidence if epidemiologic evidence can meet specific criteria and can be further supported with mechanistic data.

According to the review, existing data that suggests cognitive decline can be caused by reduced muscle mass meet these criteria, which offers plausible mechanisms based on hypothesized links and experimental evidence.

While this review doesn't suggest that loss of muscle mass is the single cause of sarcopenia, their study does help to bolster the credibility behind the idea that reduced skeletal muscle mass and physical inactivity can cause cognitive decline.

Building Muscle Can Prevent Cognitive Decline

This critical review points to evidence that supports the idea that causal relationships exist between weightlifting and improved cognitive function. Physical inactivity alters myokine secretion, linking cognitive decline that occurs with age and low muscle mass.

This published review further strengthens the credibility behind the notion that sarcopenia can lead to declining cognitive function. Although the authors' overall hypothesis aligns with what we already know, more studies must be and will be done.

However, the biggest takeaway is a familiar refrain we've heard repeatedly: Regular exercise is the key to longevity and overall health.

Build Muscle to Improve Cognitive Function in Our Belltown Gym

If you live in Seattle and want to learn more about how lifting weights can improve your cognitive function, meet with one of our private trainers in Seattle at Demco Fitness.

Other corporate gyms can't give you the personal community experience you'll find at Demco Fitness. If you are looking for gym memberships in Seattle where you can connect with a helpful positive community of members and personal trainers, look no further than Demco Fitness.

Demco Fitness works with clients to meet their personalized goals, regardless of where they are on their fitness journey. So, if you're looking for a positive atmosphere without the negative gym vibe, Demco Fitness is the Seattle gym for you.


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