And Shoveling Counts! Weight Lifting Improves Thinking

Why go to the gym when you can shovel for exercise?

If you’ve been in the Washington, DC area during this fourth-biggest snowstorm ever, I’m sure you agree that shoveling counts as weight-lifting. Good thing, since weight-lifting, besides keeping bones and muscles in good shape and contributing to good circulation, the maintenance of a healthy weight, good posture, and a decreased chance of getting heart disease, stroke, or osteoporosis, has now been shown to improve cognitive function in “older” women. Great news!

The New York Times reports in “Exercise: In Women, Training for a Sharper Mind,” that older women who lifted weights for an hour or two per week showed improved cognitive function a year later as compared to women who did balance or toning exercises. “Older” in this case meant aged 65-75. Personally, I’m still more than a decade away from that age cohort; maybe you’re not there yet either.

But strength training is likely to provide similar gains in “younger” women. In any case, this new research offers great news — and, combined with other similar research, is creating a clear picture that there ARE things all of us can to do prevent cognitive decline.

Alzheimer’s Association research (based on the classic Framingham studies) shows that at 65, a woman’s chance of developing dementia stand at about 22 percent.

Yet the Times article, citing an Archives of Internal Medicine paper, reported that the women who did strength training actually IMPROVED their performance on “executive function” tests by 10.9 percent to 12.6 percent. A control group, which exercised gently without weights, experienced a slight deterioration in cognitive function: About 0.5 percent. The strength-training group’s improvements included an improved ability to make decisions, resolve conflicts, and focus. Wow!

“Exercise is good for you” is not new news. But researchers are getting so much clearer about exactly how it’s good for you, and which kinds matter most. (All of which proves my point: Tomboys were right! 🙂 ) With such overwhelming evidence of profound physical and cognitive benefits, how can one not devote time each day (whether lifting weights or lifting snow) to physical fitness?


4 Responses to “And Shoveling Counts! Weight Lifting Improves Thinking”

  1. Davi-Ellen Chabner Says:

    I agree. For the last 9 years (I am 65 years old) I have run 10 marathons. I decided to give my legs a rest this year and not do the Boston marathon in April, but I am doing more with weights at the gym and intervals on the stationary bike and treadmill (this is BOSTON!). I am also a breast cancer survivor… so never say never! JUST TRY IT!

  2. Lisa Byrne Says:

    Mariah, thanks for the share! This is great stuff and I am sharing your site on my newsletter for all the women who know this is meaningful. My movement studio is primarily boomers who truly believe this is important…it is always good to see more research to support what we already know to feel good!

    Here’s a YouTube shovelling video that is simple yet gives some clues to tuning into what matters to your body:)


  3. Mariah Burton Nelson Says:

    Hi Lisa, Thanks for your shoveling video! I did the stretches along with you, and now it’s time to go back to the ice-hard “plow-wash” that is lining my driveway and making getting my car in and out a bit too challenging. Better to challenge my body with a good shoveling workout. Thanks again!

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