Resistance training benefits older adults

11 January 2011

While the cognitive function of her clinical trial group is the formal measure of MSFHR scholar Dr. Teresa Liu-Ambrose’s work, she finds the other aspects of her research just as rewarding, both personally and professionally.

Liu-Ambrose’s work was recently featured in local and international mass media when it was published in the Archives of Internal Medicine, in both January 2010 and December 2010. The study followed 155 Vancouver-based women, aged 65 – 75, for one year of either resistance training or balance and tone training.

The research looked at whether or not executive functions, defined as the higher level cognitive processes like decision-making and multi-tasking, would improve with resistance training versus the balance and tone training, which is often more available in the community. Liu-Ambrose and her team were able to confirm that there was a measureable difference in cognitive function when resistance training-type exercise was practiced by this group. This result is important for the ageing to consider — to keep mentally sharp, regular resistance training is a critical aspect of health.

Liu-Ambrose relishes the ability to keep in touch with her participants, many of whom have become her friends. They have also become friends with each other, keeping in touch to offer support. The ability for these women to develop an increased peer network, which is often harder to develop in this age group, has also been an important and rewarding part of their participation.

These aspects of the work have also been extremely rewarding to Liu-Ambrose, and have driven her passion for working with older adults to determine how exercise can make a difference in their lives. She credits the financial support from MSFHR as essential. “The support from the Michael Smith Foundation has given me the opportunity to follow my passion,” she says, “and this work has made me who I am today. I’m very grateful.”

Liu-Ambrose has a long relationship with MSFHR, as a 2002 PhD trainee, a 2003 post doctoral fellow trainee and a 2006 scholar.