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Arch Intern Med. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2012 September 21.
Published in final edited form as:
PMCID: PMC3448565

Resistance Training and Executive Functions: A 12-Month Randomised Controlled Trial

Teresa Liu-Ambrose, PT, PhD,1,2,6 Lindsay S Nagamatsu, MA,3 Peter Graf, PhD,1,3 B Lynn Beattie, MD,1,4 Maureen C Ashe, PT, PhD,5,6 and Todd C Handy, PhD1,3



Cognitive decline among seniors is a pressing health care issue. Specific exercise training may combat cognitive decline. We compared the effect of once-weekly and twice-weekly resistance training with twice-weekly balance and tone exercise training on the performance of executive cognitive functions in senior women.


In this single-blinded randomised trial, 155 community-dwelling women aged 65 to 75 years old living in Vancouver, Canada were randomly allocated to once-weekly resistance training (n=54), twice-weekly resistance training (n=52), or to twice-weekly balance and tone training (i.e., control group) (n=49). Primary outcome measure was performance on the Stroop Test, an executive cognitive test of selective attention and conflict resolution. Secondary outcomes of executive cognitive functions included set shifting as measured by the Trail Making Tests (Part A & B) and working memory as assessed by verbal digits forward and backward tests. Gait speed, muscular function, and whole brain volume were also secondary outcome measures.


Both resistance training groups significantly improved their performance on the Stroop Test compared with those in the balance and tone group (p≤0.03). Specifically, task performance improved by 12.6% and 10.9% in the once-weekly and twice-weekly resistance training groups respectively; it deteriorated by 0.5% in the balance and tone group. Enhanced selective attention and conflict resolution was significantly associated with increased gait speed. Also, both resistance training groups demonstrated reductions in whole brain volume compared with the balance and tone group at the end of the study (p≤0.03).


Twelve months of once-weekly or twice-weekly resistance training benefited the executive cognitive function of selective attention and conflict resolution among senior women.

TRIAL REGISTRATION Identifier: NCT00426881

Keywords: Resistance Training, Executive Functions, Older Adults