Ever wondered what exercise is best for your brain?

While jogging certainly has its benefits, new research is showing that regular weightlifting could actually make your brain work better and even prevent dementia.

Research, conducted by Australian scientists, focused on 100 people aged 55 to 86 with “mild cognitive impairment” who were asked to do weight lifting and brain training. They published their results which outlined how cognition skills improve as a result of weight training. The benefits lasted even 12 months after.

“What we found in this follow-up study is that the improvement in cognition function was related to their muscle strength gains. The stronger people became, the greater the benefit for their brain,” said the study’s lead author, Dr. Yorgi Mavros, of Sydney University.

So what exercise did they actually do? They focused on lifting weights that were 80% as heavy as the max they could lift. They stuck to the 80% rule as they got stronger. While this is yet to be determined for all age groups, the results are encouraging says researcher Dr. Mavros:

“The more we can get people doing resistance training like weight lifting, the more likely we are to have a healthier ageing population,” said Dr. Mavros. “The key however is to make sure you are doing it frequently, at least twice a week, and at a high intensity so that you are maximising your strength gains. This will give you the maximum benefit for your brain.”

Further studies are also planned:

“The next step now is to determine if the increases in muscle strength are also related to increases in brain size that we saw,” said the study’s senior author Professor Maria Fiatarone Singh, geriatrician at University of Sydney. “In addition, we want to find the underlying messenger that links muscle strength, brain growth, and cognitive performance, and determine the optimal way to prescribe exercise to maximise these effects.”

You can read more about the study here.