The effect of resistance training on cognitive function in the older adults: a systematic review of randomized clinical trials

Aging Clin Exp Res. 2018 Nov;30(11):1259-1273. doi: 10.1007/s40520-018-0998-6. Epub 2018 Jul 13.


Background: Aging is often accompanied by decline in aspects of cognitive function. Cognitive decline has harmful effects on living independence and general health. Resistance training is seen as a promising intervention to prevent or delay cognitive deterioration, yet the evidence from reviews is less consistent.

Aim: To assess the effect of resistance training on cognition in the elderly with and without mild cognitive impairment and to provide an up-to-date overview.

Methods: A search was conducted using PUBMED, Web of science, MEDLINE, CINAHL, Cochrane Library, EMBASE, Wan Fang, and China National Knowledge Infrastructure. The searches were limited to articles published in English or Chinese from January 2010 to September 2017.

Results: The search returned 2634 records, of which 12 articles were included in the systematic review. Main results showed that resistance training had positive effects on the executive function and global cognitive function of the elderly, and short-term interventions had little positive effect on memory and attention. Secondary results demonstrated that there was a significant benefit of triweekly resistance training in global cognitive function and biweekly in executive function of the elderly.

Conclusions: Resistance training had positive effects on the executive cognitive ability and global cognitive function among the elderly; however, it had a weak-positive impact on memory. No significant improvement was found in attention. Triweekly resistance training has a better effect on general cognitive ability than biweekly. Further studies are needed focusing on the development and application of resistance training among the elderly.

Keywords: Aged; Cognitive function; Exercise prescription; Resistance training.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Aging / physiology
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / prevention & control*
  • Executive Function / physiology
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Memory
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic
  • Resistance Training*