Physical Activity, Cardiorespiratory Fitness, and Cognition Across the Lifespan

  • Edward McAuleyEmail author
  • Sean P. Mullen
  • Charles H. Hillman


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.


Physical Activity Exercise Training Default Mode Network Executive Control Hippocampal Volume 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Partial support for the preparation of this manuscript was provided by a grant from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD R01 HD055352) to Charles Hillman and the National Institute on Aging (NIA 2R01 AG020118) to Edward McAuley.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Edward McAuley
    • 1
    Email author
  • Sean P. Mullen
    • 1
  • Charles H. Hillman
    • 1
  1. 1.University of Illinois at Urbana ChampaignUrbanaUSA

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