Differentiating the influence of sedentary behavior and physical activity on brain health in late adulthood

Audrey M. Collins, Cristina Molina-Hidalgo, Sarah L. Aghjayan, Jason Fanning, Emily D. Erlenbach, Neha P. Gothe, Daniel Velazquez-Diaz, Kirk I. Erickson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Public health messaging calls for individuals to be more physically active and less sedentary, yet these lifestyle behaviors have been historically studied independently. Both physical activity (PA) and sedentary behavior (SB) are linked through time-use in a 24-hour day and are related to health outcomes, such as neurocognition. While the benefits of PA on brain health in late adulthood have been well-documented, the influence of SB remains to be understood. The purpose of this paper was to critically review the evolving work on SB and brain health in late adulthood and emphasize key areas of consideration to inform potential research. Overall, the existing literature studying the impact of SB on the components and mechanisms of brain health are mixed and inconclusive, provided largely by cross-sectional and observational work employing a variety of measurement techniques of SB and brain health outcomes. Further, many studies did not conceptually or statistically account for the role of PA in the proposed relationships. Therefore, our understanding of the way in which SB may influence neurocognition in late adulthood is limited. Future efforts should include more prospective longitudinal and randomized clinical trials with intentional methodological approaches to better understand the relationships between SB and the brain in late adulthood, and how these potential links are differentiated from PA.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number112246
JournalExperimental Gerontology
StatePublished - Sep 2023


  • Aging
  • Brain health
  • Physical activity
  • Sedentary behavior

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Endocrinology
  • Aging
  • Molecular Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Cell Biology


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