Cognitive decline comes with age and loss of cognitive function can greatly reduce the quality of life of life of the elderly. This is why researchers are looking for ways and means to slow down cognitive decline in senior citizens.
Canadian researchers at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver report that weight-bearing resistance exercise may help minimize not only mobility impairment but also cognitive decline in the elderly.
The researchers looked at 155 elderly women aged 65 to 75 years old who underwent 12 months of special physical training. The women were randomly split into 3 groups:
- Group 1: once or twice a week resistance training program
- Group 2: twice a week resistance training program
- Group 3: twice a week balance and tone training (control group)
The participants were evaluated based on:
- Stroop test, an executive cognitive test of selective attention and conflict resolution
- Executive cognitive functions included set shifting as measured by the Trail Making Tests and working memory as assessed by verbal digit span forward and backward tests
- Gait speed, muscular function, and whole-brain volume
The results, published in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine, indicate that that the training program improved executive cognitive function.
Both the resistance training groups 1 and 2 showed significant improvements compared with those in the balance and tone group. Task performance results were as follows:
- Improvement of 12.6% in the once-weekly resistance training group
- Improvement of 10.9% in the twice-weekly resistance training groups
- Deterioration of 0.5% in the balance and tone group
Gait speed, selective attention and conflict resolution also improved and whole-brain volume reduced in Groups 1 and 2 compared to Group 3.
The study authors concluded:
According to study leader Dr. Teresa Liu-Ambrose, researcher at the Centre for Hip Health and Mobility at Vancouver Coastal Health and the Brain Research Centre at the University of British Columbia:
“We were able to demonstrate that simple training with weights that seniors can easily handle improved ability to make accurate decisions quickly… Additionally, we found that the exercises led to increased walking speed, a predictor of considerable reduction in mortality.”
Physical exercise in general improves physical and mental health in the elderly. However, those with limited mobility might not be able to perform most types of physical exercise training. The reported weight-bearing exercises described by the researchers will be beneficial to those who are not eligible for traditional training.
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