Is It True That Exercise Promotes Both Muscle And Brain Health?

My name is Julia Shannon, and I recently completed my Bachelor of Science in Human Kinetics at the University of Guelph. This past winter semester, I had the privilege of completing an internship at Motion Plus Physiotherapy. As part of my intern role, I performed an in-depth review of the scientific literature studying how exercise impacts strength and cognition. Below is a brief summary of my findings from this research process.

There is evidence in the literature showing the impact of strength and cognition levels on various clinically important outcomes. For example, one such outcome is an individual’s risk of falling. Research has shown that having higher strength and cognitive function levels contributes to a decreased risk of falls. Improving falls risk is not only important for decreasing risk of injury; it is also important for safely navigating the community and being able to perform various activities of daily living (Hsu et al., 2012; Neri et al., 2021; Pham et al., 2023). Therefore, it is important to consider ways that we can improve both strength and cognition, and the literature suggests that exercise can help us achieve this.

The benefits of many different types of exercise for both muscle and brain health have been demonstrated. Several studies have shown that resistance training is effective for improving strength and cognition, with other studies suggesting that adding cognitive training to a resistance training program may have additional benefits as well (Castaño et al., 2022; Coelho-Junior et al., 2022; Keating et al., 2021; Meng et al., 2022; Prevett et al., 2022). While the articles in the literature differ in which specific exercises they prescribed, resistance training included various body-weight exercises and exercises with free weights, and cognitive training included tasks such as naming words within a certain category (Castaño et al., 2022). Other studies have shown the positive effects of balance [JS1] exercises, such as balancing on different surfaces, for improving performance on balance assessments performed in research laboratories (Rogers et al., 2002; Smee et al., 2014). This improvement in balance in turn contributes to a decreased risk of falling (Rogers et al., 2002; Smee et al., 2014).

Overall, we recognize the benefits of resistance training, resistance training plus cognitive training, and balance exercises in contributing to greater strength and cognitive function.

Please speak with your physiotherapist or kinesiologist about which exercises may be best for you.

 [JS1]Expand on what balance improvements means