Physical activity and brain development

Expert Rev Neurother. 2015;15(9):1041-51. doi: 10.1586/14737175.2015.1077115. Epub 2015 Aug 9.


Brain development is a complex process, and stimuli during this developmental period may modulate the brain's functional maturation and determine its lifelong integrity. Human and animal studies have shown that environmental stimuli such as physical activity habits seem to have a favorable influence on brain development. Research on humans has demonstrated improvement in cognitive performance in the children of women who exercised regularly throughout pregnancy and in individuals who were physically active during childhood and adolescence. Investigations using animal models have also reported that physical activity improves the cognitive function of developing rats. In this review, we will present the neurobiological mechanisms of such effects.

Keywords: adolescent; brain; brain-derived neurotrophic factor; development; exercise; fetus; learning; memory; neurogenesis; physical activity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Cognition / physiology
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Physical Conditioning, Animal