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Strengthen Your Muscles and Your Nerves

For those just starting or those who have had a workout regime that includes weight training, we’ve all felt a little disappointed when we don’t see immediate effects.

But a new study with monkeys contends that resistance or strength training may have a bigger effect on us than just muscle mass.

Researchers at the Institute of Neuroscience at Newcastle University enlisted two female macaque monkeys to lift weights and studied the impact on their nerves.

About the Study

The study started by incentivizing monkeys with treats to pull a weighted lever and measured the nerves that become most activated before, during and after the workouts. As the monkeys built up their strength, the researchers noted stronger messages being sent to one set of nerves, called the reticulospinal tract.

The Results from Resistance Training

The findings, as explained by one of the researchers, shows that “strength isn’t just about muscle mass. You get stronger because the neural input to your muscles increases.” Essentially, strength training is more than just muscular strength. It also impacts our central nervous system (as monkeys and humans have similar nervous systems).

Despite the limited sample size of two monkeys, researchers found the results encouraging. And if you start on a strength training regimen, you should find them encouraging, too. Even though you may not see immediate physical results when strength training, there is a positive impact on your nervous system. And as your nervous system strengthens and sends stronger signals to your muscles, your get stronger and your muscles grow.

Why It Matters

By understanding how our nervous system changes during resistance training, researchers “might be better able to help people who lose strength or muscular control after a stroke, for example, or as a result of aging or for other reasons.”

So if you’ve been thinking about resistance training or have been discouraged by the results, dust off those weights and do your body and your nervous system some good.

Source: New York Times

Dr. Sonja Stilp is a physician and founder of RISE practicing in Boulder, CO. She provides personalized care and global healing for the athlete in all of us. Sonja enjoys walking, hiking, running, and of course, strength training in the Colorado Rockies. 

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