Another study exploring the cognitive benefits of exercise affirms the positive effects of unstable resistance training.

Many fit pros use balance training tools to help clients “train” for fall prevention and to improve core control. As it turns out, using these props boosts brain fitness, too. Researchers from Germany’s University of Kassel, Institute of Sports and Sports Science, found that mental fitness improved when they combined resistance training with balance for older men and women. Investigators divided subjects between 65 and 79 years of age into three training groups: unstable, free-weight resistance training and two types of stable, machine-based resistance training. Participants trained twice a week on nonconsecutive days for 10 weeks.

Data analysis showed that older adults who did the unstable free-weight training program improved working memory, processing speed and response inhibition. Scientists found no improvements in executive function for those in the stable resistance training groups.

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