There is a growing emphasis on healthy aging, with many services and products being developed to respond to this interest. It is essential to understand the scientific evidence on which such products are based. This chapter focuses on the beneficial effects of physical exercise on brain structure and function, with a focus on normal aging. The chapter consists of four sections: molecular and cellular mechanisms evidenced in non-human animals; epidemiological studies of the impact of physical activity and exercise on cognition later in life; cross-sectional studies and randomized clinical trial studies; future directions for research. Given the aging of the population in most industrialized countries (Gokhale & Smetters, 2006) and the fact that the first baby boomers turn 60 in 2006 it is unsurprising that there is an increasing focus on the development of programs and products for healthy aging. This focus has resulted in a dramatic increase in the availability of books, computer programs, nutritional supplements, physical activity programs and other consumer products that claim to provide solutions to the detrimental changes in cognition and brain function that occur during the process of adult aging. For example, a recent search on Amazon.com yielded 175 books that profess to offer successful techniques for maintaining and enhancing memory during aging. An increasing number of computer programs are also available that offer to both track changes in attention, memory, decision making, processing speed and other cognitive processes over time and provide practice and training to ensure maintenance and even enhancement of a variety of cognitive skills and abilities. One recent addition to this rapidly growing field of products to foster healthy aging is a series of games introduced in 2006 by Nintendo.
- Neurology and clinical neuroscience
ASJC Scopus subject areas