The effect of resistance training on cognitive performance, cortical plasticity, and fall risk in women aged 65 to 75 years old: A 12-month randomized controlled trial

Falling and fall-related injuries among the elderly is a significant health issue for seniors in Canada. Older adults with cognitive impairment are at particular risk; 60 per cent fall annually, a rate that is twice that of their peers with normal cognition. Previous research has demonstrated that current falls prevention programs, such as multifactorial interventions, are ineffective in people with cognitive impairment. This suggests the need for an innovative approach to falls prevention in this group, such as targeting cognitive function itself to reduce falls. As a two-time MSFHR Trainee, Dr. Teresa Liu-Ambrose researched the effectiveness of exercise and rehabilitation programs for preventing falls in women at risk, and the specific dimensions of cognition associated with falls risk in older women. Building on this research, Dr. Liu-Ambrose is now investigating whether resistance training — a mode of exercise proven to reduce the physiological risk of falls in older adults — also benefits cognition. In her study of cognitively-intact women aged 65 to 75, Dr. Liu-Ambrose is determining whether a 12-month resistance training program improves high-level cognitive function. Using standard neuropsychological tests and brain imaging techniques, she will measure changes in cognitive performance and cortical function. She will also evaluate changes in physiological falls risk. Results from this novel study will provide valuable insight into the development of falls prevention programs that specifically focus on cognitive function in older adults.