Preventing people from the onset of dementia is one of the issues to be prioritized in geriatrics. Several methods have been proposed so far, but none of them have proven its effect with clinical or statistical significance.
Nonetheless, we believe there are some basic principles to keep our mental health in old age. Taking healthy food, maintaining social activity, and adequate exercise are considered to be essential.
And recently, an academic paper was published mentioning the effect of physical exercise on cognitive function. The researchers claimed progressive resistance training seemed to be beneficial, and its influence was greater than cognitive training.
Independent: Lifting weights could make you more intelligent, study suggests
In spite of the title of the article above, the researchers did not suggest lifting weights makes you more intelligent. Actually, people diagnosed as mild cognitive impairment participated in this study. A half of the participants took regular weight training, and a half took cognitive training as well. Thus, they were divided into four groups randomly.
The protocol of this study was well constructed, I think. Statistical analysis suggested participants in the group with weight training had better scores of ADAS-Cog (a series of cognitive examination) partially with statistical significance compared with participants without training. On the other hand, participants having taken cognitive training showed no superiority after a series of training compared to the control group. Increases in the lower body, but not upper, strength were associated with improvements in cognitive function.
Journal of the American Geriatrics Society: Mediation of Cognitive Function Improvements by Strength Gains After Resistance Training in Older Adults with Mild Cognitive Impairment: Outcomes of the Study of Mental and Resistance Training
What does this result indicate? It seems physical exercise is somehow beneficial for people with mild cognitive impairment. The researchers hypothesized that strength gains would mediate cognitive improvement. But the mechanism regarding this outcome is still unsure. It is noteworthy that this study is a randomized controlled clinical trial. Thus, confounders interfering the interpretation of this results have been potentially excluded in advance.
A couple of years ago, cognitive training was popular in elder people for preventing dementia. But it was proven that each cognitive training had no preventive effects from dementia. The result of this study is consistent with the previous ones. If you wish to be clever in elderly, you prefer to train your body, rather than brain.