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Strength training makes elderly people mentally stronger

People over sixty who take up strength training not only gain physical strength but can improve their mental functioning too, report Brazilian sports scientists in Clinical Interventions in Aging.

The researchers, at the Oeste University State in Brazil, got 29 older women - average age 66 - to do strength training three times a week. The programme they followed focused on the large muscle groups, and they trained with 60-70 percent of the weight at which they could just manage 1 rep. The participants rested for one minute between sets.

A control group of nine women did no training.


The strength training had no statistically significant effect on bodyweight, BMI or waist circumference [WC]. The experiment was too short for such effects to be observed, the researchers suspect.

The figure below is simplified. Click on the figure for a larger version.

Strength training makes elderly people mentally stronger

The women who did strength training became stronger - at least, in a period of 30 seconds they were able to make more reps when curling with a dumbbell of 2.3 kg [ULs] and to stand up more often from sitting [LLS]. As a result of the strength training they also scored 20 percent higher on the Montreal Cognitive Assessment questionnaire [MoCa].

Strength training makes elderly people mentally stronger
There is something strange about the scores. The Montreal Cognitive Assessment questionnaire measures a whole range of mental capacities - from spatial awareness to memory function, and from concentration to abstract reasoning.

The higher you score, the better. The maximum score is 30, and psychologists start to wonder whether there's something amiss with scores below 26.

The elderly people in the study scored low over the whole range - they were in the red zone. Nevertheless the researchers say that their subjects were not suffering from Alzheimer's or any neurological degeneration.

Whatever. The participants not only gained physical fitness, but mental fitness to.

The figure below is simplified. Click on the figure for a larger version.

Strength training makes elderly people mentally stronger

"The present study showed that a strength training protocol applied for 12 weeks to elderly women increased balance, flexibility, strength of upper and lower limbs, and increased cognitive performance", the researchers summarised. "Based on our results, we can recommend strength training programs for elderly women that aim for the improvement of general strength and cognitive performance."

Clin Interv Aging. 2016 Jun 1;11:749-54.

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Alzheimer's & Dementia
Weight Training