The Effect of Combined Resistance and Cognitive Training on Cognitive Function in Older Adults
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Older adults who stay physically and mentally active appear to have better cognitive function compared to their less active counterparts. In fact, those who perform either regular exercise or cognitive training (CT) can maintain and improve their cognitive functioning, even in their later years. Resistance training (RT) causes an increase in specific hormones that are responsible for improved brain functioning; however, many questions about how these hormones respond to RT are unanswered. Understanding how these hormones respond to RT can help researchers and clinicians create optimal training programs for older adults. Research shows that combining exercise and CT may be better for the brain compared to either activity performed alone; however, nobody has looked at RT combined with CT. We believe that combining RT and CT where CT is performed when an individual’s hormones are highest (right after RT) could have a big effect on brain function in a short period of time. This work represents a two-part study looked at: 1) how these hormones respond to a session of RT, and 2) the effect of combined RT and CT on cognitive function in older adults. Our participants performed CT immediately after RT, 3 times per week for 8 weeks. Specific hormones which are important for brain function were measured immediately before and for 2 hours after an acute bout of RT before and after 8-weeks of RT. Cognitive function was measured before and after the RT training period. Our primary findings were: 1) significant increases in brain derived neurotrophic factor immediately after RT and 2) participants cognitive function improved after 8 weeks of training. This is important because short-term combined RT and CT can lead to significant improvements in cognitive functioning. Also, this work will allow researchers to begin designing exercise programs that can maximize the brain’s ability to change, even at an old age.