Exercise and cognition in older adults: is there a role for resistance training programmes?

Br J Sports Med. 2009 Jan;43(1):25-7. doi: 10.1136/bjsm.2008.055616. Epub 2008 Nov 19.


In recent years, there has been a strong interest in physical activity as a primary behavioural prevention strategy against cognitive decline. A number of large prospective cohort studies have highlighted the protective role of regular physical activity in lowering the risk of cognitive impairment and dementia. Most prospective intervention studies of exercise and cognition to date have focused on aerobic-based exercise training. These studies highlight that aerobic-based exercise training enhances both brain structure and function. However, it has been suggested that other types of exercise training, such as resistance training, may also benefit cognition. The purpose of this brief review is to examine the evidence regarding resistance training and cognitive benefits. Three recent randomised exercise trials involving resistance training among seniors provide evidence that resistance training may have cognitive benefits. Resistance training may prevent cognitive decline among seniors via mechanisms involving insulin-like growth factor I and homocysteine. A side benefit of resistance training, albeit a very important one, is its established role in reducing morbidity among seniors. Resistance training specifically moderates the development of sarcopenia. The multifactorial deleterious sequelae of sarcopenia include increased falls and fracture risk as well as physical disability. Thus, clinicians should consider encouraging their clients to undertake both aerobic-based exercise training and resistance training not only for "physical health" but also because of the almost certain benefits for "brain health".

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Accidental Falls / prevention & control
  • Aged
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Cognition Disorders / prevention & control*
  • Fractures, Bone / prevention & control
  • Homocysteine / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I / metabolism
  • Resistance Training*


  • Homocysteine
  • Insulin-Like Growth Factor I