Can Strength Training Improve Mild Cognitive Impairment?

Significant improvements in cognitive function, muscle strength, and aerobic capacity
Significant improvements in cognitive function, muscle strength, and aerobic capacity

HealthDay News — For adults with mild cognitive impairment (MCI), high-intensity progressive resistance training (PRT) results in significant improvements in cognitive function, muscle strength, and aerobic capacity, with cognitive benefits mediated by strength gains, according to a study published online October 24 in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Yorgi Mavros, PhD, from the University of Sydney, and colleagues conducted a randomized trial involving 100 community-dwelling older adults (aged ≥55 years) with MCI. Participants were randomized to PRT and cognitive training or sham exercise two to three days per week for six months. 

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The researchers found that, compared with sham exercise, there were significantly greater increases in upper, lower, and whole body strength and in the percentage change in aerobic capacity (VO2peak) with PRT. There were significant associations for higher strength scores, but not greater VO2peak, with improvements in cognition (P<0.05). The effect of PRT on Alzheimer's Disease Assessment Scale-cognitive subscale improvements and global domain, but not executive domain, was significantly mediated via greater lower body strength.

"High-intensity PRT results in significant improvements in cognitive function, muscle strength, and aerobic capacity in older adults with MCI. Strength gains, but not aerobic capacity changes, mediate the cognitive benefits of PRT," the authors write. "Future investigations are warranted to determine the physiological mechanisms linking strength gains and cognitive benefits."

Several authors disclosed financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry.

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