The effects of aerobic activity on brain structure

Front Psychol. 2012 Mar 23:3:86. doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2012.00086. eCollection 2012.


Aerobic activity is a powerful stimulus for improving mental health and for generating structural changes in the brain. We review the literature documenting these structural changes and explore exactly where in the brain these changes occur as well as the underlying substrates of the changes including neural, glial, and vasculature components. Aerobic activity has been shown to produce different types of changes in the brain. The presence of novel experiences or learning is an especially important component in how these changes are manifest. We also discuss the distinct time courses of structural brain changes with both aerobic activity and learning as well as how these effects might differ in diseased and elderly groups.

Keywords: aging; angiogenesis; environmental enrichment; exercise; hippocampus; learning; neurogenesis; plasticity.