How does our brain undergo various changes when doing consistent strength based training? It is well known that consistent strength training results in better longevity due to overall muscle mass and that high intensity interval training results in better heart health. However, those benefits aren’t the only effects of strength training on the body. Consistent strength training also affects our brain in various ways. We will discuss various cognitive adaptations that occur to the brain when consistently doing strength training.
Firstly, an improvement in the executive functions is an example of the cognitive adaptations that occur from consistent strength training. Executive functions are cognitive processes responsible for problem solving, decision making, and planning. A study on the “Effects of Exercise on Cognition” Sports Medicine , Volume 51 (12) – Dec 1, 2021 has shown a significantly improved performance on a “Stroop Task" - which challenges your cognitive flexibility and selective attention. The group consisted of healthy elderly women ages 65-75 training biweekly for 6 months. When compared to the controlled group doing light balanced based training the regular group had a better performance. It proves increased demand for focus and concentration during training can translate to improved cognitive control in daily life activity and also sports.
Secondly, the brain undergoes various neurochemical changes when doing strength training. The stress induced from strength training causes the brain to release endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin. Those chemicals are responsible for pain tolerance, mood and stress control. This can lead to a better performance as an athlete when managing in-game situations. The brain’s neuroplasticity also increases when you introduce the body to various new movements, specifically when constantly strength training, forming new neural connections, recognizing, and adapting to new patterns.
Lastly, the brain releases neurotrophic factors like BDNF stimulated by strength training. BDNF is a brain protein that supports the growth and maintenance of neurons. BDNF also contributes to neuronal plasticity, which is essential for learning and memory.
Thus, the more we involve ourselves into strength based training with controlled intensities the more room we create for the brain to adapt and improve our overall performance whether in our daily living activities or in a sport.
-Coach Andy Louis