Physical activity, cardiorespiratory fitness, and cognition across the lifespan

Edward McAuley, Sean P. Mullen, Charles H. Hillman

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


In this chapter, we review the literature relative to physical activity, exercise training, and cardiorespiratory fitness associations with cognitive function, and brain structure and function. We begin by examining these relationships in the context of older adults, which represents the greatest proportion of the literature in this area. We conclude that data from exercise training studies show a consistent protective effect of exercise and, in particular cardiorespiratory fitness, on executive function and brain health. Next, we review a more recent series of studies that have focused on extending fitness effects on brain and cognition to children. This work is suggestive of a positive association between fitness and brain structure and function, cognitive function, and scholastic achievement. We conclude by discussing emerging trends and future directions in the physical activity and cognition field and argue that the maintenance of an active lifestyle across the lifespan may be as important for brain health as it is for physical health.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationSocial Neuroscience and Public Health
Subtitle of host publicationFoundations for the Science of Chronic Disease Prevention
EditorsPeter A Hall
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9781461468523
ISBN (Print)9781461468516
StatePublished - Jan 1 2013


  • Physical Activity
  • Hippocampal Volume
  • Executive Control
  • Default Mode Network
  • Exercise Training

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine


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