Weight-bearing exercises may help minimize cognitive decline and impaired mobility in seniors, according to a new study conducted by the Centre for Hip Health and Mobility at Vancouver Coastal Health and the University of British Columbia.
The study, published today in the Archives of Internal Medicine, is one of the first randomized controlled trials of progressively intensive resistance training in senior women. Led by Dr. Teresa Liu-Ambrose, researcher at the Centre and assistant professor in the Faculty of Medicine at UBC, the research team found that 12 months of once-weekly or twice-weekly resistance training improved executive cognitive function in senior women aged 65 to 75 years old. Executive cognitive functions are cognitive abilities necessary for independent living.
“We were able to demonstrate that simple training with weights that seniors can easily handle improved ability to make accurate decisions quickly,” says Liu-Ambrose, who is also a researcher at the Brain Research Centre at UBC and Vancouver Coastal Health. “Additionally, we found that the exercises led to increased walking speed, a predictor of considerable reduction in mortality.”
Previous studies have shown that aerobic exercise training, such as walking or swimming enhances brain and cognitive function. However, seniors with limited mobility are unable to benefit from this type of exercise.
Until now, the benefits of resistance training, which is an attractive alternative type of exercise for seniors with limited mobility, on cognitive function has received little investigation. Liu-Ambrose is one of few researchers in Canada investigating the role of targeted resistance training in promoting mobility and cognitive in seniors.
Cognitive decline among seniors is a pressing health care issue and it is a key risk factor for falls. Approximately 30 per cent of B.C. seniors experience a fall each year and fall-related hip fractures account for more than 4,000 injures each year at a cost of $75 Million to the health care system.
The number of seniors in B.C. is expected to increase by 220 per cent by 2031, representing 23.5 per cent of B.C. population. Effective strategies to prevent cognitive decline are essential to improving quality of life for older British Columbians and to save the health care system millions in associated costs.
“At the Centre for Hip Health and Mobility we focus on research that will have a positive impact on the health of people in B.C. and Canada,” says Heather McKay, centre director and professor in the Faculty of Medicine at UBC. “Dr. Liu-Ambrose’s research provides a clear illustration of relatively simple interventions with a profound and immediate impact on the mobility and quality of life of older adults.”
Results from this study are available for immediate adoption by senior women seeking to improve their health as the doses of resistance training used meet the recommended criteria provided by the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for seniors.
Support for this research has been provided by a Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research Establishment Grant, the Vancouver Foundation, and the BC Medical Services Foundation.
The Centre for Hip Health and Mobility, located at the Vancouver General Hospital conducts innovative research programs to decrease the burden of falls, fracture and arthritis across B.C., Canada, and the world. It is the first international research centre to broadly focus on problems affecting the human hip across the lifespan by integrating researchers in various aspects of bone health, falls prevention, and arthritis. The Centre is a partnership of UBC Faculty of Medicine and Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute. www.hiphealth.ca
The Brain Research Centre comprises more than 200 investigators with multidisciplinary expertise in neuroscience research ranging from the test tube, to the bedside, to industrial spin-offs. The centre is a partnership of UBC Faculty of Medicine and Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute. www.brain.ubc.ca.
VCH Research Institute is one of Canada’s top funded health sciences research centres, with $136 million in total research funding for 2007/2008. The Institute is the research arm of Vancouver Coastal Health Authority and the health partner of the University of British Columbia’s Faculty of Medicine. www.vchri.ca
The UBC Faculty of Medicine provides innovative programs in the health and life sciences, teaching students at the undergraduate, graduate and postgraduate levels, and generates more than $200 million in research funding each year. In 2007/08, out of the total UBC research endeavour, 53 per cent, or $247 million, came from academic and clinical teams in the Faculty of Medicine. For more information, visit www.med.ubc.ca.