A review of the relation of aerobic fitness and physical activity to brain structure and function in children

J Int Neuropsychol Soc. 2011 Nov;17(6):975-85. doi: 10.1017/S1355617711000567.


A growing number of schools have increasingly de-emphasized the importance of providing physical activity opportunities during the school day, despite emerging research that illustrates the deleterious relationship between low levels of aerobic fitness and neurocognition in children. Accordingly, a brief review of studies that link fitness-related differences in brain structure and brain function to cognitive abilities is provided herein. Overall, the extant literature suggests that childhood aerobic fitness is associated with higher levels of cognition and differences in regional brain structure and function. Indeed, it has recently been found that aerobic fitness level even predicts cognition over time. Given the paucity of work in this area, several avenues for future investigations are also highlighted.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain / anatomy & histology
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Child
  • Child Development*
  • Cognition
  • Educational Status
  • Humans
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Physical Fitness / physiology*