Help pack a million meals for struggling seniors on 9-11. Volunteer today



Learning Centers

Get smart strategies for managing health conditions.


Heart Disease


Most Popular Articles


Health Discovery

Strength Training for Your Brain

Using weights as we age can improve thinking and balance.

Lifting weights and other forms of resistance training can help shape up your brain as well as your muscles.

Canadian researchers found that strength and balance training improved thinking ability among a group of 28 older men and women with a history of falling who took part in a falls prevention program.

After six months, the participants, age 70 and older, showed a 13 percent improvement in high-level thinking skills. The skills of a control group of 24 people who also had a history of falling but received standard care deteriorated 10 percent.

According to researcher Teresa Liu-Ambrose of the University of British Columbia, the 28 whose brain function improved received regular visits from a physiotherapist who encouraged them to go through specific strength and balance exercises three times weekly and to walk at least twice weekly. Individuals in the control group were expected to initiate the exercise program on their own; none of them did.

The exercise program also helped reduce falls: After one year, 43 percent of the exercise group had repeat falls, compared with 67 percent of the standard care group.

Most research to date has focused on the benefits of aerobic exercise on the brain, but mounting evidence shows that resistance training also may help.

“The link between cognitive function and exercise is just beginning to emerge,” says Anne Shumway-Cook of the University of Washington’s Department of Rehabilitation Medicine in Seattle. “In addition to its many other positive benefits, we now see that exercise can also help maintain thinking skills as we age.”

The Canadian study, one of three recent trials on strength training and brain health, was published in the OctoberJournal of the American Geriatrics Society.

Nissa Simon is a freelance writer who lives in New Haven, Conn.


Topic Alerts

You can get weekly email alerts on the topics below. Just click “Follow.”

Manage Alerts


Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.

AARP Staying Sharp: Keep Your Brain Healthy


Discounts & Benefits

From companies that meet the high standards of service and quality set by AARP.

Walgreens 1 discount membership aarp

Members can earn 50 points per $1 spent on select health & wellness products at Walgreens.

member benefit aarp hear usa

Members save 15% on easy listening devices and more at the HearUSA Hearing Shop.

Eye Med 4 Membership Benefit AARP Discount

Members save up to 60% on eye exams and 30% on glasses at Target Optical.

Membership Benefits Discounts Email Genius

Brain boost? Get AARP email for access to memory exercises & more that help you focus.

Rewards for Good

Your Points Balance:

Learn More

Earn points for completing free online activities designed to enrich your life.

Find more ways to earn points

Redeem your points to save on merchandise, travel, and more.

Find more ways to redeem points