The effects of physical activity and exercise on brain-derived neurotrophic factor in healthy humans: A review

Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2014 Feb;24(1):1-10. doi: 10.1111/sms.12069. Epub 2013 Apr 22.


The purpose of this study was to summarize the effects of physical activity and exercise on peripheral brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in healthy humans. Experimental and observational studies were identified from PubMed, Web of Knowledge, Scopus, and SPORT Discus. A total of 32 articles met the inclusion criteria. Evidence from experimental studies suggested that peripheral BDNF concentrations were elevated by acute and chronic aerobic exercise. The majority of the studies suggested that strength training had no influence on peripheral BDNF. The results from most observational studies suggested an inverse relationship between the peripheral BDNF level and habitual physical activity or cardiorespiratory fitness. More research is needed to confirm the findings from the observational studies.

Keywords: brain-derived neurotrophic factor; cardiorespiratory fitness; cognitive function; exercise; physical activity.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor / blood*
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Physical Fitness / physiology*
  • Resistance Training


  • Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor
  • BDNF protein, human