Perhaps you’ve heard about the “mind-muscle connection.” It’s the concept that, when we’re lifting weights, we want to focus and concentrate our mind on the muscles we’re using while they’re contracting. If we do that, we will strengthen the mind-muscle connection and get better results from our strength and muscle-building efforts.
But it turns out that the mind-muscle connection isn’t just for muscleheads. It’s become really popular in research circles, but in a slightly different way.
There’s a strong connection between brain health and the amount of lean body mass we have, and this connection stays with us as we get older.
This can be a problem. Why? Well, we’re all fighting “Father Time,” and lean muscle mass declines 3-8 percent every decade after we hit 30 … and accelerates even more once we hit 60.
As we age, the loss of lean muscle mass and strength is known as “sarcopenia.” This decline in lean mass has been tightly correlated with dementia.
But the good news is, that weightlifting, i.e. resistance training, can slow the decline of lean mass and strength as we age. So the more lean mass we can maintain every decade after 30, the longer we will be able to ward off cognitive decline.
In fact, a study from the University of Montreal found that 8 weeks of aerobic strength training in older individuals led to increases in muscle strength and executive brain function.
I don’t know about you, but this strikes me as a pretty powerful example of the mind-muscle connection. Sure, it’s cool to think that I could make my biceps bigger by thinking about them while doing dumbbell curls. But the idea of improving my brain health and delaying – or even avoiding – cognitive decline through strength training is infinitely more beneficial.
Remember: When we lose muscle mass as we age, we aren’t just losing our six-pack. We’re also losing cognitive function, as well.
So as we exercise and take care of our bodies, it’s important to remember that strength training will also pay big dividends on the mental side.