Role of Brain Structure in Predicting Adherence to a Physical Activity Regimen

Swathi Gujral, Edward McAuley, Lauren E. Oberlin, Arthur F. Kramer, Kirk I. Erickson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective Physical activity (PA) is important for maintaining health throughout the lifespan. However, adherence to PA regimens is poor with approximately 50% of older adults terminating activity intervention programs within 6 months. In this study, we tested whether gray matter volume and white matter microstructural integrity before the initiation of a PA intervention predicts PA adherence. Methods One hundred fifty-nine adults aged 60 to 80 years were randomly assigned to a moderate-intensity aerobic walking condition or a nonaerobic stretching and toning condition. Participants engaged in supervised exercise 3 times per week for 12 months. Data were collected for a period of 1 year. Voxel-based morphometry and tract-based spatial statistics protocols were used to process neuroimaging data, and ordinary least squares regression models with bootstrapping were used to analyze voxelwise neural predictors of PA adherence. Results Greater volume in several regions predicted greater PA adherence, including prefrontal, motor, somatosensory, temporal, and parietal regions (p <.01). We also found that higher fractional anisotropy in several white matter tracts predicted greater PA adherence (p FDR-corrected <.05), including the superior longitudinal fasciculus, anterior thalamic radiation, forceps minor, and body of the corpus callosum. Conclusions These findings provide preliminary support for macro- and microstructural neural predictors of PA adherence and may translate to other health behaviors and behavioral goal pursuit more broadly.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)69-77
Number of pages9
JournalPsychosomatic Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2018


  • adherence
  • gray matter
  • physical activity
  • white matter

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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