The effects of cardiorespiratory fitness on brain and cognitive aging

Daniel C. Bowie, Grace M. Clements, Gabriele Gratton, Monica Fabiani

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


A wealth of evidence strongly suggests that regular physical activity can slow the progression of age-related declines in brain structure, brain function, and cognition. However, the mechanisms linking exercise-induced alterations in biomolecular signaling to neuroanatomical and neurophysiological changes, and, ultimately, to the long-term beneficial effects on cognition remain unclear, largely due to challenges in translating results from animal research to humans. Here, we provide an overview of work on cognitive aging and fitness from both domains, highlighting the role of neurotrophic factors in exercise-enhanced synaptic plasticity, neurogenesis, and angiogenesis, in addition to important findings from cognitive neuroscience. We also emphasize the role of cerebrovascular health, which is promoted by consistent exercise, in maintaining the brain’s structural and functional integrity, as well as optimal cognitive functioning. In closing, we explore outstanding questions, including the role of genetic profiles in moderating the positive effects of exercise on brain and cognitive function in aging.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationFactors Affecting Neurological Aging
Subtitle of host publicationGenetics, Neurology, Behavior, and Diet
EditorsColin R Martin, Victor R Preedy, Rajkumar Rajendram
PublisherAcademic Press
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9780128179901
StatePublished - 2021


  • Aerobic exercise
  • Arteriosclerosis
  • Cardiorespiratory fitness
  • Cerebrovascular health
  • Cognitive aging
  • Executive function
  • Neuroimaging
  • Neuroplasticity
  • Neurotrophic factors
  • Pulse-DOT (arterial pulse measured with diffused optical tomography)

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Medicine
  • General Neuroscience


Dive into the research topics of 'The effects of cardiorespiratory fitness on brain and cognitive aging'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this