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The Mainstream Still Doesn't Know Strength Training Beats Running. Why?

Our good friends at CNN report that a paper in the journal Neurology adds to the evidence that Exercise slows the rate of cognitive decline in people who take the idea seriously. The good news is that it obviously does.

The bad news is that CNN, along with the rest of the mainstream media, continues to perpetuate the idea that Exercise means Running, and that a better approach doesn't really exist.

The study compared the cognitive decline of older adults who performed what they themselves considered “moderate to heavy-intensity exercise” to that of people of the same age group who basically sat squarely on their butts. Baseline scores were taken and followed up five years later with a repeat assessment.

This was a pretty good study, with 876 people completing the exit assessment, and the data were well-compiled and analyzed over a comparatively long period of time, thus taking it up a notch or two from the vast majority of exercise science. (And really, this is not exercise science anyway -- it is serious investigation using a large cohort, extensive funding, and actual professional academicians.)

But as is the norm these days in the investigative sciences, the conventional wisdom prevails, and the potential for much more powerful intervention in the process of cognitive decline remains uninvestigated.

Instead of Exercise, “high-intensity” defined here as “running and aerobics,” they could have been investigating Training: the planned application of gradually increasing physical stress. More specifically, strength training.

All you need to know is already there, in the article: the higher the intensity of the exercise, the more effective the cognitive preservation of the human performing the activity.

The higher the intensity of any exercise, the more the energy requirements of the exercise shift from oxygen-dependent processes that use fat for fuel (“aerobics”) toward anaerobic processes that use carbohydrate for fuel. Many studies have established a link between carbohydrate metabolic disorders and dementia. There is a decent body of evidence that associates Type II Diabetes with cognitive decline, if not outright Alzheimer's.