A study which traced the performance of participants for one year has shown that strength training for seniors offers both cognitive as well as economic benefits.
The study, was conducted at the Centre for Hip Health and Mobility at Vancouver Coastal Health and the University of British Columbia, is the first to examine whether both cognitive and economic benefits are sustained after formal cessation of a tailored exercise program.
It builds on the Brain Power Study, which 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.
Executive cognitive functions are cognitive abilities necessary for independent living.
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," said 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 fact, the researchers found that while both the once-weekly strength training group and the control group - which performed twice-weekly balancing and toning exercises - were able to maintain higher levels of activity than when they first began the original study, individuals in the twice per week strength training group showed a reduction in physical activity.
This reduction may be due community factors, both a lack of strength or weigh training programs tailored for older adults and the perception from seniors that they may need to undertake an activity program multiple times per week to receive any benefit.
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," said Davis.
The study has been published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.