Older women who did an hour or two of strength training exercises each week had improved cognitive function a year later, scoring higher on tests of the brain processes responsible for planning and executing tasks, a new study has found.
Researchers in British Columbia randomly assigned 155 women ages 65 to 75 either to strength training with dumbbells and weight machines once or twice a week, or to a comparison group doing balance and toning exercises.
A year later, the women who did strength training had improved their performance on tests of so-called executive function by 10.9 percent to 12.6 percent, while those assigned to balance and toning exercises experienced a slight deterioration — 0.5 percent. The improvements in the strength training group included an enhanced ability to make decisions, resolve conflicts and focus on subjects without being distracted by competing stimuli.
Older women are generally less likely than others to do strength training, even though it can promote bone health and counteract muscle loss, said Teresa Liu-Ambrose, a researcher at the Center for Hip Health and Mobility at Vancouver General Hospital and the lead author of the paper, which appears in the Jan. 25 issue of Archives of Internal Medicine.