The relationship between aerobic exercise and cognition: is movement medicinal?

J Head Trauma Rehabil. 2010 May-Jun;25(3):184-92. doi: 10.1097/HTR.0b013e3181dc78cd.


Each year approximately 1.5 million individuals sustain traumatic brain injuries often resulting in difficulties in memory and executive function that limit independence. Aerobic exercise not only has been found to impact cardiovascular systems but has also shown benefits to brain function itself and specifically in the domain of memory and learning. Recent evidence is shedding light on the mechanisms possibly impacting cognitive performance following the participation in exercise. Literature has demonstrated increased hemodynamics within the brain, changes in neurotransmitters, and increasing levels of brain-derived neurotrophic factor that stimulates neurogenesis, and resistance to further injury. This review article explores the current literature and the possibility of exercise acting as an adjunct treatment to enhance the effectiveness of cognitive rehabilitation.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain Injuries / diagnosis*
  • Brain Injuries / rehabilitation*
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Cognition Disorders / psychology
  • Cognition Disorders / rehabilitation
  • Disability Evaluation
  • Executive Function / physiology*
  • Exercise / physiology
  • Exercise / psychology*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Injury Severity Score
  • Male
  • Mobility Limitation
  • Neovascularization, Physiologic / physiology
  • Nerve Growth Factors / metabolism
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / metabolism
  • Physical Fitness
  • Quality of Life
  • Recovery of Function
  • Risk Assessment
  • Sickness Impact Profile
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Nerve Growth Factors
  • Neurotransmitter Agents