Teresa Liu-Ambrose, PhD of the University of British Columbia says, “Exercise is a promising strategy for combating cognitive decline.”
Previous studies found both aerobic training and resistance training effective in improving cognitive performance in healthy older adults with mild cognitive impairment. But no study had attempted to determine which form of exercise was more effective.
So Liu-Ambrose and her researchers divided 86 women, ages 70-80, into three groups: One group trained twice a week with machines and free weights. A second group exercised aerobically. And a third group performed stretching and balancing exercises.
The Stroop Test, a cognitive test of selective attention and the ability to deal with conflicting information—for example, being able to read the word “Green” even when it’s printed in blue—measured mental performance. Other tests measured working memory, associative memory, problem solving and visual attention and task switching.
After six months, the aerobics group became more physically fit and improved balance, but saw no cognitive benefits.
The resistance-training group significantly improved their performance on the Stroop Test and associative memory tests. MRI scans showed significant improvement in areas of the brain associated with cognition and memory.
Researchers cautioned that the results might not apply equally to women or men of ages different from the study group.
Source: Tufts University Health & Nutrition Update, August 2012 Study published in Archives of Internal Medicine, May 17, 2012