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Lifting cognition: a meta-analysis of effects of resistance exercise on cognition

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The health benefits of resistance exercises are well established; however, the effects of resistance training on cognition are not as well understood. The purpose of this meta-analysis was to evaluate the evidence of resistance exercise’s effects on cognition. A systematic search identified 24 studies that were included in the analyses. These articles ranged in the protocols utilized and in how they studied the effects of resistance training on cognition. Four primary analyses were carried out to assess the effects of resistance exercise on cognitive outcomes: (1) composite cognitive scores, (2) screening measures of cognitive impairment, (3) measures of executive functions, and (4) measures of working memory. Results revealed positive effects of resistance training on composite cognitive scores (SMD 0.71, 95% CI 0.30–1.12), screening measures of cognitive impairment (SMD 1.28, 95% CI 0.39–2.18), and executive functions (SMD 0.39, 95% CI 0.04–0.74), but no effect on measures of working memory (SMD 0.151, 95% CI − 0.21 to 0.51). High heterogeneity was observed in all analyses. Resistance training appears to have positive effects on cognition; however, future research will need to determine why the effects are so variable.

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  1. The search performed in the Web of Sciences database was limited to the following categories: neuroscience, sport sciences, pediatrics, psychology, rehabilitation, clinical neurology, psychology experimental, public environmental occupational health, psychology developmental, behavioral sciences, psychiatry, psychology multidisciplinary, geriatrics gerontology, physiology, psychology biological, multidisciplinary sciences, gerontology, psychology applied, education educational research, psychology clinical, psychology educational and medicine research experimental.


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Correspondence to Jon-Frederick Landrigan.

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Landrigan, JF., Bell, T., Crowe, M. et al. Lifting cognition: a meta-analysis of effects of resistance exercise on cognition. Psychological Research 84, 1167–1183 (2020).

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