Exercise and Cognitive Function

Neurobiological mechanisms

Authored by: Nicole C. Berchtold , Carl W. Cotman

Routledge Handbook of Physical Activity and Mental Health

Print publication date:  April  2013
Online publication date:  August  2013

Print ISBN: 9780415782999
eBook ISBN: 9780203132678
Adobe ISBN: 9781136477805


 Download Chapter



The concept that lifestyle factors such as exercise, diet, and intellectual activity affect the health and function of the brain has gained increasing traction over the past decade. In particular, exercise participation has emerged as a powerful strategy to improve learning and memory, delay age-related cognitive decline, and reduce the risk of neurodegeneration. In humans, the benefits of exercise have been most clearly demonstrated in elderly populations, where sustained exercise participation improves a wide range of cognitive processes. The most robust benefits emerge for the brain's frontal lobes (responsible for executive function), as well as the hippocampus (critical for learning and memory), and the anterior cingulate (involved in both executive function and aspects of memory). Essentially, the cognitive capacities that are most susceptible to functional decline with age are those that are most benefited by exercise, suggesting that exercise slows brain aging. Research aimed at understanding the underlying mechanisms that mediate benefits of physical activity on brain health and cognitive function is an area of intense activity, with many exciting findings discovered in the past two decades. In addition, an emerging field that builds on the benefits of exercise reveals that lifestyle factors such as cognitive stimulation (“enrichment”) and diet interact with exercise to further benefit brain health and function. This chapter focuses on the neurobiological mechanisms that have been identified as key factors mediating benefits of exercise on cognitive health, and will briefly review recent findings on interactive effects of exercise, diet, and enrichment on brain health and function.

Search for more...
Back to top

Use of cookies on this website

We are using cookies to provide statistics that help us give you the best experience of our site. You can find out more in our Privacy Policy. By continuing to use the site you are agreeing to our use of cookies.