Aging Clinical and Experimental Research

, Volume 30, Issue 11, pp 1259–1273 | Cite as

The effect of resistance training on cognitive function in the older adults: a systematic review of randomized clinical trials

  • Zhihui Li
  • Xin Peng
  • Wei Xiang
  • Jiaqi Han
  • Kun LiEmail author



Aging is often accompanied by decline in aspects of cognitive function. Cognitive decline has harmful effects on living independence and general health. Resistance training is seen as a promising intervention to prevent or delay cognitive deterioration, yet the evidence from reviews is less consistent.


To assess the effect of resistance training on cognition in the elderly with and without mild cognitive impairment and to provide an up-to-date overview.


A search was conducted using PUBMED, Web of science, MEDLINE, CINAHL, Cochrane Library, EMBASE, Wan Fang, and China National Knowledge Infrastructure. The searches were limited to articles published in English or Chinese from January 2010 to September 2017.


The search returned 2634 records, of which 12 articles were included in the systematic review. Main results showed that resistance training had positive effects on the executive function and global cognitive function of the elderly, and short-term interventions had little positive effect on memory and attention. Secondary results demonstrated that there was a significant benefit of triweekly resistance training in global cognitive function and biweekly in executive function of the elderly.


Resistance training had positive effects on the executive cognitive ability and global cognitive function among the elderly; however, it had a weak-positive impact on memory. No significant improvement was found in attention. Triweekly resistance training has a better effect on general cognitive ability than biweekly. Further studies are needed focusing on the development and application of resistance training among the elderly.


Aged Cognitive function Resistance training Exercise prescription 



This research is funded by Natural Science Foundation of Jilin Province (20160101215JC).

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical approval

This article does not contain any studies with human participants or animals performed by any of the authors.

Informed consent

For this type of study, formal consent is not required.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of NursingJilin UniversityChangchunChina

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