Effects of resistance training in gray matter density of elderly



Aging has been shown to be associated with decreases in brain and muscle tissues, accompanied by dysfunction in cognition and functionality, respectively. Resistance training (RT) has been widely recommended to mitigate muscle loss but its effects on brain tissue are still unclear.


This study verified the effects of 12 weeks of RT on gray matter density in elderly.


Seven participants (four men and three women; 61.3 ± 2.8 years; 68.7 ± 16.5 kg; 161 ± 12 cm) had the brain anatomy and thigh cross sectional area obtained through magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) before and after RT. Gray matter density was then separated and compared between pre and post exercise intervention.


Data showed that RT promoted increases in gray matter density in the posterior and anterior lobe of cerebellum, superior frontal gyrus in the frontal lobe and anterior cingulate cortex in the limbic lobe (p < 0.001). Additionally, RT also increased thigh cross-sectional area and muscle strength (p < 0.05).


Our study indicates that resistance training may be an alternative intervention to improve neuronal density in brain regions related to motor control and cognition in the elderly.

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Corresponding author

Correspondence to Eduardo Bodnariuc Fontes.

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The study was funded by National Council for Scientific and Technological Development- CNPq/Brazil: 476107/2011-3. EBF received a scholarship from FAPESP # 2011/01466-8; AHO received a scholarship from FAPESP # 13/10187-0. CU was supported by CNPq (304205/2011-7, 500388/2012-1) and FAPESP (2012/22817-6).

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The authors declare that there are no competing interests.

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All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

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 Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.

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Fontes, E.B., Libardi, C.A., Castellano, G. et al. Effects of resistance training in gray matter density of elderly. Sport Sci Health 13, 233–238 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11332-016-0298-5

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  • Resistance Training
  • Anterior Cingulate Cortex
  • Anterior Lobe
  • Superior Frontal Gyrus
  • Neural Adaptation