Elderly people should train with weights to help them carry out everyday tasks and improve their concentration, a new study shows.
Working out a few times a week can reduce some of the mental decline associated with ageing, the research found.
The study asked a group of women with an average age of 70 to take an exercise class using weights once or twice a week for a year.
A similar group took a different class, which focused on toning and stretching, over the same amount of time.
Dr Teresa Liu-Ambrose, from the University of British Columbia, in Canada, who led the study, said: “We were able to demonstrate that simple training with weights that seniors can easily handle improved ability to make accurate decisions quickly.”
The group who used weights were also able to walk faster at the end of the year, a factor which can be linked to the risk of an early death.
As well as using free weights during the class the volunteers were also encouraged to do squatting and lunging exercises.
Previous studies have shown that aerobic exercises, which can include walking or swimming, improve how older people’s brains function.
But few researchers have looked at the impact of weight training, which is easier for some older people to do, especially if they have problems with their mobility.
Women who took the weight training classes performed up to 13 per cent better on cognitive function tests, which examine concentration and the ability to carry out everyday tasks, a year after they started the exercises, according to the findings, published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
However, the study found no differences in the women’s short-term memory.
In total 155 women, all aged between 65 and 75, took part in the study.