Resistance Training Improves Mental Function

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Mild cognitive impairment (MCI) is a condition where a person has minor problems with things like memory, thinking, attention, language or visual depth perception. The problems are usually not severe enough to affect activities of daily living. But some people with MCI go on to develop dementia – Alzheimer’s in particular. A new study published in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society by Mavros et al from the University of Sydney has looked into the effects of strength training on cognitive function. The researchers selected 100 people with MCI aged 55 or over. Part of the subjects were put through progressive resistance training (PRT) 2x/week for 6 months. Unsurprisingly, the resistance training led to increases in strength but interestingly the strength increases were linked to improvements in mental ability. The researchers conclude that the link between strength gains and cognitive function merits further study.

Yoga Improves Mental Function

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Gothe et al. from the University of Illinois recently conducted a study to look into the effects of hatha yoga on cognition. They recruited 118 senior citizens (mean age of 62) and randomly assigned them to one of 2 groups: a hatha yoga intervention group and a stretching/strengthening control group. Each group took part in hour-long exercise classes 3x/week for 8 weeks. At the end of the study period the yoga group showed improved results at information recall, mental flexibility and task switching. Whereas the stretching/strengthening group showed no improvement.

Although the underlying mechanisms are not known, it’s possible that the improvements in mental function┬ámay have been secondary to a reduction in stress. Alternatively, they may be down to the focussed attention on breathing, body position and movement.