Twelve Weeks of Intensive Strength Training did not Impact Serum Brain Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF) Levels in Elderly Persons

Research output: Contribution to journalMeeting abstract (Journal)



BDNF is assumed to induce neurogenesis and to protect against neurodegenerative diseases. The neurobiological benefit from physical exercise is thought to involve exercise-induced increases in BDNF.This study investigates the effects of 12-weeks strength training on circulating BDNF in community-dwelling older adults.


Forty elderly persons living independently in the community and involved in intensive physical exercise were enrolled (median age 66 years, range 62-72 years). Twenty participants were assigned to 12 weeks of progressive strength training (TE, 70-80% of maximal strength, 3 x / week; leg press, leg abductor, leg adductor, vertical traction, chest and shoulder press). Matched control individuals (CON, n=20) maintained daily activity levels.Serum was collected for BDNF-assay from all participants before and after 12 weeks (for TE-subjects 24h-48h after the last training). Data were analyzed using non-parametric statistics.


Muscle strength improved significantly in TE participants (+49% for leg extension, p = 0.008). Contrary to our hypothesis, TE did not affect serum BDNF (p=0.147) concentration and no significant difference was observed when comparing TE and CON for changes in BDNF levels after 12 weeks (p=0.383). In addition, gender and health status did not interact with the results.


We showed that 12 weeks of strength training significantly improved muscle performance. The lack of impact of TE on serum BDNF levels (p>0.05) might have been due to the fact that the exercise-induced BDNF response might occur acutely following exercise, and might have been washed out when we sampled our participants. This hypothesis should be confirmed in further studies.
Original languageEnglish
JournalTijdschrift voor Gerontologie en Geriatrie
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2014
Event37ste Wintermeeting Belgische Vereniging voor Gerontologie en Geriatrie - Kursaal, Oostende, Belgium
Duration: 21 Feb 201422 Feb 2014


  • Brain-derived neurotrophic factor
  • Ageing
  • Strength training
  • Exercise


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