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Cardio and weight training reduces access to health care in seniors

15.05.2013
Forget apples – lifting weights and doing cardio can also keep the doctors away, according a new study by researchers at the University of British Columbia and Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute.

The study, published today in the online journal PLOS ONE, followed 86 women, aged 70- to 80-years-old, who were randomly assigned to participate in weight training classes, outdoor walking classes, or balance and toning classes (such as yoga and pilates) for six months. All participants have mild cognitive impairment, a well-recognized risk factor for Alzheimer's disease and dementia.

The researchers tabulated the total costs incurred by each participant in accessing a variety of health care resources.

"We found that those who participated in the cardio or weight training program incurred fewer health care resources – such as doctor visits and lab tests – compared to those in the balance and toning program," says Jennifer Davis, a postdoctoral fellow and lead author of the study.

The study is the latest in a series of studies that assess the efficacy of different types of training programs on cognitive performance in elderly patients. An earlier study, published in February in the Journal of Aging Research, showed aerobic and weight training also improved cognitive performance in study participants. Those on balance and toning programs did not.

"While balance and toning exercises are good elements of an overall health improvement program, you can't 'down-dog' your way to better brain health," says Teresa Liu-Ambrose, an Associate Professor in the UBC Faculty of Medicine and a member of the Brain Research Centre at UBC and VCH Research Institute. "The new study also shows that cardio and weight training are more cost-effective for the health care system."

BACKGROUND | Exercise benefits for the brain

The new studies build on previous research by Prof. Liu-Ambrose, Canada Research Chair in Physical Activity, Mobility, Cognitive Neuroscience and a member of the Centre for Hip Health & Mobility, where she found that once- or twice-weekly weight training may help minimize cognitive decline and impaired mobility in seniors.

Research method

The weight training classes included weighted exercises targeting different muscle groups for a whole-body workout. The aerobic training classes were an outdoor walking program targeted to participants' age-specific target heart rate. The balance and toning training classes were representative of exercise programs commonly available in the community such as Osteofit, yoga, or Tai Chi.

Other members of the research team include Stirling Bryan (UBC), Carlo Marra (UBC), Devika Sharma (UBC), Alison Chan (UBC), Lynn Beattie (UBC, VCH, and Brain Research Centre), and Peter Graf (UBC and Brain Research Centre).

Funding partners:

This study was supported by a grant from the Pacific Alzheimer's Research Foundation. Teresa Liu-Ambrose and Jennifer Davis are also supported by the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research. Prof. Liu-Ambrose is also supported by the Canada Research Chairs program.

The Brain Research Centre comprises more than 225 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 the UBC Faculty of Medicine and VCHRI. http://www.brain.ubc.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. http://www.med.ubc.ca.

Vancouver Coastal Health provides a full range of health care services, ranging from hospital treatment to community-based residential, home health, mental health and public health services, to residents of Vancouver, North Vancouver, West Vancouver, Richmond, and in the coastal mountain communities. VCH Research Institute is the research body of Vancouver Coastal Health. In academic partnership with the University of British Columbia, VCHRI brings innovation and discovery to patient care. ICORD is a principal research program of VCHRI. http://www.vch.ca.

Melissa Ashman | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.brain.ubc.ca
http://www.vch.ca

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