Alert
Close

Top the Treasure Hunt leaderboard by 5 p.m. Friday to win a $100 gift card! Learn more

AARP Bulletin

Health Discovery

Stronger Muscles, Stronger Brains

Study shows lifting weights just once a week helps keep your brain sharp

En español | For older women, the type of exercise you do may be more important than how often you do it. That's the message of a surprising new study by Canadian researchers that found that women who started a once-a-week strength-training program were more likely to stick with it — and reap the physical and mental benefits — than those who started a twice-a-week program.

Subscribe to the AARP Health Newsletter


A year later, researchers again tested the women to determine who had maintained their physical activity level as well as the mental boost they had gotten from exercising during the original program.

"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 lead author Teresa Liu-Ambrose of the Centre for Hip Health and Mobility at Vancouver Coastal Health and the University of British Columbia.

Is exercising once a week enough?

Although the twice-weekly group was exercising less a year later, the once-weekly group was still active and showed a 15 percent improvement on their mental skills test as compared with the balance-and-toning group, the researchers found.

Liu-Ambrose believes it's because the once-weekly group found it easier than the twice-weekly group to maintain the same level of physical activity of the original study. "Those who start a once-weekly strength-training program are more likely to stick with it," she says.

In other words, while exercising more often may ideally be better for you, ultimately the best exercise program is one that you actually will keep doing.

Candy Sagon writes about health and nutrition for the AARP Bulletin.

Strength-Training Tips

Stronger Muscles, Stronger Brains

Lifting weights just once a week offers brain health benefits. — B2M Productions/Getty Images

  • Do a single set of repetitions. Just one set of 12 repetitions with the proper weight can build muscle as efficiently as multiple sets.
  • Equipment? Use elastic bands, dumbbells or weight machines.
  • What's a proper weight? One that's heavy enough to tire your muscles by the 12th repetition. You should just barely be able to finish the last one.
  • Start slowly. Start with only a few pounds — or the easiest band — to get your muscles, tendons and ligaments accustomed to weight training. Once you can easily do 12 repetitions, gradually increase the weight.
  • Helpful hint: According to the new study described here, you'll see mental improvement from regular strength training just once a week.

Source: Mayo Clinic.

You May Also Like

Visit the AARP home page every day for great deals and for tips on keeping healthy and sharp

Topic Alerts

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

Manage Alerts

Processing

Please wait...

progress bar, please wait

VIDEO EXTRA

EAT LIKE A CHAMPION: AARP fitness expert Martina Navratilova on why she eats "au naturel."

Either the video service is temporarily unavailable or the requested video could not be retrieved. We apologize for the inconvenience.

Tell Us WhatYou Think

Please leave your comment below.

Discounts & Benefits

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

Woman trying on glasses in optometrists shop

Members save up to 60% off eye exams and 30% off eyeglasses at Pearle Vision.

Prescription medication spilling out of bottle

Members get a free Rx card from AARP® Prescription Discounts provided by Catamaran.

AARP/Walgreens Wellness Bus Stops in Clarksdale, MS

Members can get exclusive points offers from Walgreens and Duane Reade.

Caregiving walking

Caregiving can be a lonely journey, but AARP offers resources that can help.