High-Velocity Resistance Training Improves Executive Function in Mobility-Limited Older Adults

Written by: Brendan Rigby (Accredited Exercise Physiologist)

As we age, maintaining both physical and cognitive function becomes increasingly important for our overall well-being and quality of life.

Among the many challenges that older adults face, preserving executive function is crucial for independent living and daily activities.


Executive function encompasses cognitive abilities such as decision-making, problem-solving, and memory, and it plays a vital role in our ability to manage complex tasks.

Recent research has shed light on the connection between high-velocity resistance training and improved executive function in mobility-limited older adults.

This exciting finding suggests that a well-structured exercise regimen can offer multiple benefits beyond physical strength, positively impacting cognitive abilities.

In this article, we will explore the science behind high-velocity resistance training and its potential to enhance executive function in older adults.

Understanding Executive Function

Before delving into the study, let’s first understand what executive function is and why it matters for older adults. Executive function is like the conductor of the brain’s orchestra, overseeing various cognitive processes and making sure they work harmoniously. These processes include:

Inhibition: The ability to control impulsive behaviour and maintain focus.
Working Memory: The capacity to hold and manipulate information temporarily.
Cognitive Flexibility: Adapting to new information and changing situations.
Problem Solving: Finding effective solutions to complex challenges.
Planning and Organization: Structuring tasks and activities effectively.

These cognitive functions are essential for daily activities such as managing medications, cooking, and navigating complex environments. Unfortunately, they tend to decline with age, which can hinder an older adult’s ability to live independently and enjoy a high quality of life.

High-Velocity Resistance Training: The Science

High-velocity resistance training is a specialized form of strength training that emphasizes lifting weights with speed and power.

Unlike traditional strength training, which often focuses on slower, controlled movements, high-velocity training encourages participants to move as explosively as possible while still maintaining good form and safety.

A study published in the the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society in 2020 examined the impact of high-velocity resistance training on executive function in mobility-limited older adults.

The researchers recruited a group of participants aged 70 to 89 who had reported difficulty with mobility and daily activities. These individuals were randomly assigned to either a high-velocity resistance training group or a control group.

The high-velocity resistance training program involved supervised, progressive strength training, emphasizing rapid movements.
The participants engaged in exercises such as squats, deadlifts, and bench presses, but with the added emphasis on moving the weights quickly. They trained three times per week for 12 weeks.

The Results

After 12 weeks, the participants who underwent high-velocity resistance training demonstrated significant improvements in both physical and cognitive measures.
Their strength, balance, and gait speed had all improved, leading to enhanced mobility and reduced fall risk. Perhaps even more exciting was the improvement in executive function, as measured by various cognitive tests.

The high-velocity resistance training group exhibited better scores in tasks related to inhibition, working memory, cognitive flexibility, problem-solving, and planning. These cognitive gains translated to enhanced everyday functioning, as participants reported increased confidence in performing complex tasks and maintaining their independence.

Implications for Aging Adults

The findings of this study suggest that high-velocity resistance training holds promise as a multifaceted approach to improving the overall well-being of mobility-limited older adults.

By targeting both physical and cognitive domains, it offers a holistic solution to combat the challenges that can come with aging.

While more research is needed to further explore the long-term effects and optimal training protocols for this population, the results are promising.

High-velocity resistance training can be an effective strategy for older adults to maintain or even enhance their executive function, enabling them to live more fulfilling and independent lives.


The link between high-velocity resistance training and improved executive function in mobility-limited older adults is an exciting discovery that underscores the importance of staying physically active as we age.

By targeting both the body and the mind, this form of exercise provides a promising approach to maintaining cognitive function and quality of life in later years.
As we continue to learn more about the benefits of high-velocity resistance training, it is clear that there is great potential for improving the well-being of older adults.