Knowledge is power. While the true origin of that famous quote is unknown (often attributed to Sir Francis Bacon) science has recently given some credence to it. A new study is suggesting that strengthening neural pathways through resistance training could make you stronger AND smarter!
One of the newest brain terms scientists and bio hackers have been throwing around is Neuroplaticity. While few know what it is, it may be one of the more important factors in aging, learning, and preventing disease.
Neuroplasticity – or brain plasticity – is the ability of the brain to modify its connections or re-wire itself. Without this ability, any brain, not just the human brain, would be unable to develop from infancy through to adulthood or recover from brain injury.
Strengthening Neural Pathways
Australian researchers at The University of Sydney discovered that subjects who lifted light weight for high repetitions could put on just as much muscle as those who lifted heavy. However, those who trained with heavy weights made greater overall gains in strength as well, by as much as ten pounds.
To discover why this was occurring, the scientists looked at the role that nerves play in strength. Study participants who lifted light weights increased nerve capacity from 90.07% to 90.22%. The group lifting heavy increased their nerve capacity from 90.94% to 93.29%. This demonstrates that lifting heavy weights increases the efficiency of nerve cells utilized by the muscle tissue.
The more efficient the nerve cells the better communication between the brain and muscles.
So, what we can see is that lifting heavy will allow us to not only achieve greater increase in muscle mass, but also to optimize strength and nerve capacity. This is a far more complete result to get from your training and will over time lead to more efficient workouts.
Why is Strengthening Neural Pathways So Important?
Whether your workout goals are to be an elite athlete or just healthy, the approach is the same. Increases in muscle mass don’t mean you will look like The Rock or Arnold Schwarzenegger. Increased muscle mass on any body frame or type will be more functional and also help burn more calories to maintain that muscle tissue. This is also important because as we age our bodies begin to lose muscle mass . Over time it can lead to functional problems and weakness.
There is another benefit to strengthening muscles and neural pathways. The strength study found that resistance training can boost brain function and lower the risk of dementia. The researchers noted that while study participants became physically stronger, their cognitive function also improved.
The idea that exercise improves brain function has been increasingly popular within the scientific community for several years now. Multiple studies have shown this to be true.
One Step Forward…Multiple Steps Back
Something as simple as regular physical exercise can in essence reverse aging, reverse the onset of degenerative diseases of the mind and body, reduce chances of obesity, and the list goes on.
The simple idea that physical activity strengthens the mind body connection is what is responsible for all of these benefits.
Regular physical exercise is not just for athletes. The facts here and in the countless articles of research show us that the idea of “slowing down with age” is the worst thing we can do for ourselves. As little as an hour a day of physical activity is a one a day “pill” to combat any of several dozen age related diseases and conditions.