How Resistance Training Protects Your Brain

Dr. Stacy Livingston

The benefits of resistance training for physical health are widely recognized, including stronger muscles, more stable joints, and better endurance. But could weight training really slow the aging process in the brain? 

New research is revealing strength training's substantial impact on the brain. Various studies are exploring the ways that strength training offers cognitive and neurological benefits, which range from enhancing memory to slowing the cognitive decline associated with aging.

Insights into the Brain-Body Connection

Engaging in resistance training does more than just sculpt muscles; it also sharpens the mind. Research shows that exercises involving weights can improve memory, problem-solving skills, and the speed at which your brain processes information. For example, findings in the Journal of Neuroscience reveal that as you build muscle strength, your brain also develops more neural connections, particularly in areas controlling movement and coordination. This gives us some insight into the connection between the brain and the body.

Another study found that exercise's benefits for the brain extend into old age. In a trial involving older adults with mild cognitive impairment, the participants saw significant improvements in overall brain function after six months of regular resistance training. These benefits were directly tied to their physical improvements, suggesting a strong link between muscle strength and brain health. “Resistance exercise is increasingly proving an effective strategy to avoid the appearance of symptoms of sporadic Alzheimer’s,” said medical researcher Beatriz Monteiro Longo in an article for New Atlas.

Resistance Training Linked to Improved Memory

Even a single episode of high-intensity resistance training has been found to boost memory and hippocampal neuroplasticity, according to a 2024 study published in the journal Brain and Behavior. Teruo Hashimoto, one of the authors of the study, explained that they were able to verify “correlations between memory enhancement and changes in brain network induced by a single bout of resistance training.”

This new study was based on previous research that had demonstrated a connection between the hippocampus and strength training. A 2020 paper stated that this form of exercise can also significantly protect against age-related brain degeneration, particularly in the hippocampus, a region crucial for memory and learning. The controlled trial found long-term benefits that protected areas of the hippocampus from degeneration in people at risk for Alzheimer’s disease.

At a molecular level, lifting weights influences proteins linked to brain function, specifically those involved in forming and strengthening neural connections. A study on rodents showed a reversal of memory deficits after undergoing resistance training, accompanied by an increase in these critical proteins.

Exercise Causes Neurobiological Changes 

The benefits of resistance training extend to the brain’s inner workings, impacting it at the cellular level. Early in a training regimen, your body enhances the strength and efficiency of motor units (the nerve-muscle communication systems), improving both muscle and brain function. According to research published in the journal Comprehensive Physiology, these adaptations occur rapidly, even within the first few weeks of training, with enhanced strength of electrical signals linked to increased muscle force capacity.

Research has shown that parts of the brain involved in critical thinking and decision-making in the prefrontal cortex were more active during cognitive tests in individuals who had recently undergone resistance training. Moreover, engaging in regular strength-training routines can reduce brain abnormalities often associated with dementia. 

This could be attributed to the changes in blood sugar regulation that occur with this type of exercise, improving the brain’s ability to access the glucose it needs to function. Psychology Today contributor Austin Perlmutter explains that “as we age, and especially in people with Alzheimer’s disease, there is a drop-off in the brain’s ability to access and use glucose.” Strength training helps the body regulate blood sugar more effectively, which may in turn improve brain function.

Tips for Adding Resistance Training to Your Daily Routine

If you’re ready to harness the brain-boosting benefits of resistance training, here are some practical tips to get started:

1. Start Small: Begin with lighter weights and gradually increase the intensity. This approach helps build strength safely and effectively.

2. Get Professional Guidance: Consider working with a trainer to learn proper techniques and form, which can prevent injuries and ensure you get the most out of your workouts.

3. Try Resistance Bands: These offer a versatile, portable alternative to traditional weights and can be used to perform a variety of strength-training exercises anywhere.

4. Join a Class: Group fitness classes can provide motivation and structure to your resistance training routine, making workouts more enjoyable and consistent.

5. Listen to Your Body: Pay close attention to how your body responds to resistance training. Adjust your routine to avoid pain and fatigue, which can help maintain a long-term commitment to your fitness goals.

6. Incorporate Full Body Workouts: Make sure your routine includes exercises that target all major muscle groups, especially the legs, which contain some of the body's largest muscles.

By following these tips, you can build a resistance training regimen that not only strengthens your body but also enhances your cognitive health.


The link between resistance training and brain health is strong and promising. Not only does it bolster physical strength, but it also offers profound benefits for cognitive functions, protecting against age-related decline and enhancing mental acuity. By incorporating resistance training into your fitness regimen, you can enjoy the best of both worlds — keeping your body strong and your mind sharp. Whether you’re young or just young at heart, lifting weights could be key to keeping your mind sharp and healthy well into your golden years. 


Journal of Neuroscience


New Atlas

Brain and Behavior

National Library of Medicine


Comprehensive Physiology

National Institute of Health

Psychology Today

Dr. Livingston enjoys taking care of patients from the mild to the wild. He is the doctor for you, if you have been to other places and told there was nothing that could be done for your or told “It’s all in your head”. He accepts all types of cases including workers compensation, auto accident and personal injury cases. He believes chiropractic can help everyone add life to their years and get them back to doing what they love.

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