Sports Medicine

, Volume 49, Issue 6, pp 905–916 | Cite as

Acute Effects of Resistance Exercise on Cognitive Function in Healthy Adults: A Systematic Review with Multilevel Meta-Analysis

  • Jan WilkeEmail author
  • Florian Giesche
  • Kristina Klier
  • Lutz Vogt
  • Eva Herrmann
  • Winfried Banzer
Systematic Review



Recent research has revealed a beneficial impact of chronic resistance exercise (RE) on brain function. However, it is unclear as to whether RE is also effective in an acute setting.


To investigate the immediate effects of a single RE session on cognitive performance in healthy adults.


A multilevel meta-analysis with random effects meta-regression model was used to pool the standardized mean differences (SMD) between RE and no-exercise (NEX) as well as between RE and aerobic exercise (AE). In addition to global cognitive function, effects on reported sub-domains (inhibitory control, cognitive flexibility, working memory, attention) were examined.


Twelve trials with fair methodological quality (PEDro scale) were identified. Compared to NEX, RE had a positive effect on global cognition (SMD: 0.56, 95% CI 0.22–0.90, p = 0.004), but was not superior to AE (SMD: − 0.10, 95% CI 0.01 to − 0.20, p = 0.06). Regarding cognitive sub-domains, RE, compared to NEX, improved inhibitory control (SMD: 0.73, 95% CI 0.21–1.26, p = 0.01) and cognitive flexibility (SMD: 0.36, 95% CI 0.17–0.55, p  = 0.004). In contrast, working memory (SMD: 0.35, 95% CI − 0.05 to 0.75, p  = 0.07) and attention (SMD: 0.79, 95% CI − 0.42 to 2.00, p = 0.16) remained unaffected. No significant differences in sub-domains were found between RE and AE (p > 0.05).


RE appears to be an appropriate method to immediately enhance cognitive function in healthy adults. Further studies clearly elucidating the impact of effect modifiers such as age, training intensity, or training duration are warranted.


Compliance with Ethical Standards


No sources of funding were used to assist in the preparation of this article.

Conflict of interest

Jan Wilke, Florian Giesche, Kristina Klier, Lutz Vogt, Eva Herrmann, and Winfried Banzer declare that they have no conflicts of interest relevant to the content of this review.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Sports MedicineGoethe University FrankfurtFrankfurt/MainGermany
  2. 2.Institute of Biostatistics and Mathematical Modeling, Goethe University FrankfurtFrankfurt/MainGermany

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