Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Weekly Strength Training Provides Long-Term Cognitive and Economic Benefits

Joyce Mar works on her strength training at the Langara Family YMCA in Vancouver on Tuesday.

Photograph by: Steve Bosch, Vancouver Sun, Vancouver Sun

Today the Archives of Internal Medicine published results of a study that found that women aged 65 to 75 years who engaged in progressive strength training once or twice weekly over 12 months had improved executive cognitive functions and lower medical care costs than control women when evaluated again one year later.

Today's publication provides a follow-up on the Brain Power study which the Archives of Internal Medicine published inpublished in its January 2010 issue.  The original study demonstrated that 12 months of once-weekly or twice-weekly progressive strength training improved executive cognitive function in women aged 65- to 75- years- old.  

 One report of the the study results released today states:

Both studies were led by Teresa Liu-Ambrose, principal investigator at the Centre for Hip Health and Mobility and Brain Research Centre at Vancouver Coastal Health and UBC, and assistant professor in the Department of Physical Therapy at UBC's Faculty of Medicine. The one year follow-up study found the cognitive benefits of strength training persisted, and with two critical findings.

"We were very surprised to discover the group that sustained cognitive benefits was the once-weekly strength training group rather than the twice-weekly training group," says Liu-Ambrose, who's also a Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research scholar. "What we realized was that this group was more successful at being able to maintain the same level of physical activity achieved in the original study."

In this study, one group did once-weekly strength training, another did twice-weekly strength training, and a third group "control" group did something the authors refer to as "balance and tone" which according to a Vancouver Sun article featured "stretching, range of motion, core strength, balance and relaxation exercises." 

According to the report, only the once-weekly group maintained the cognitive benefits at the follow-up.  Strength training may keep you smarter than doing "balance and tone" training.

 Regarding economic benefits:

The second important finding relates to the economic benefits of once-weekly strength training. Using the data from the Brain Power Study and the one-year follow-up study, health economists Jennifer Davis and Carlo Marra, research scientists with the Collaboration for Outcomes Research and Evaluation at St. Paul's Hospital and UBC Faculty of Medicine, were able to show that the economic benefits of once-weekly strength training were sustained 12 months after its formal cessation. Specifically, the researchers found the once-weekly strength group incurred fewer health care resource utilization costs and had fewer falls than the twice-weekly balance and tone group.

"This suggests that once-weekly resistance training is cost saving, and the right type of exercise for seniors to achieve maximum economic and health benefits," says Davis.

The study found that the once-weekly strength training group had the fewest fall and lowest medical care utilization costs. 

Thus,  this study shows that standard strength training helps seniors maintain balance more effectively than exercises supposedly dedicated to "core" strength, balance, and range of motion.  That's partly because maintaining balance requires muscular strength.  If your inner ear detects that you are off balance, but you lack the strength required to correct the movement, you will fall.  Moreover, a properly designed strength training routine will itself provide so-called "core" strength, balance training, and movement through full ranges of motion.  

In other words, strength training does it all in just one session per week.

Stay strong, stay smart, stay healthy.


WoLong said...

I am a bit puzzled as to why only the once a week group saw improvement? Is there any explanation in the paper? Maybe the twice a week group got too tired?

Don said...


The authors reported that the twice weekly groups did not sustain the programs, hence did not sustain the improvements.