Summary: Lifting weights as little as once per week may improve your attention and thinking.
Several studies have shown that exercise might reduce your risk of memory loss, or even improve your memory and thinking. Most of these studies have focused on aerobic exercise such as walking or aerobics classes.
What about lifting weights? Research by Teresa Liu-Ambrose, Assistant Professor at the University of British Columbia, and her colleagues suggests lifting weights once or twice per week can improve attention and thinking in older women.
Lifting weights might not have an immediate effect. In this clinical trial, the women who lifted weights were split into two groups: those who trained once per week and those who trained twice per week. Both groups were compared to a group of women participating in a twice weekly balance and toning program. At the six month point, Dr. Liu-Ambrose and her colleagues found no significant differences between those lifting weights and those in the balance and toning program. At the one year point, however, the once per week group had improved performance by 12.6% and the twice per week group by 10.9%. The performance of the balance and toning group worsened slightly.
In a follow-up study one year after the formal training sessions ended, the once per week group still showed a 15% improvement on tests of attention and thinking over the balance and toning group.