Healthy Lifestyle and Cognition: Interaction between Diet and Physical Activity

Curr Nutr Rep. 2020 Jun;9(2):64-74. doi: 10.1007/s13668-020-00306-4.


Purpose of review: This review discusses current research on the impact of specific dietary patterns and exercise, both individually and combined, on cognitive function in older adults.

Recent findings: Observational evidence generally supports a relationship between diet adherence and positive cognitive outcomes related to memory, executive function, and risk for cognitive impairment; however, randomized controlled trials (RCTs) are limited. Exercise research is more extensive, showing improvements in cognitive performance after exercise interventions regardless of baseline cognitive status and noting lower incidences of cognitive impairment in people who engage in regular physical activity. Evidence supports adherence to specific dietary patterns and a combination of aerobic and resistance exercise as an effective approach to mitigate age-associated cognitive decline. Further research on older adults at various stages of cognitive decline, as well as longer-term RCTs, will help determine the best clinical markers of early cognitive dysfunction, and the effectiveness of early lifestyle intervention on cognitive function.

Keywords: Cognitive impairment; Dietary patterns; Physical activity.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Cerebrovascular Circulation / physiology
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Cognitive Dysfunction / physiopathology
  • Diet*
  • Diet, Mediterranean
  • Dietary Approaches To Stop Hypertension
  • Elder Nutritional Physiological Phenomena*
  • Executive Function / physiology
  • Exercise*
  • Healthy Aging*
  • Humans
  • Neurotransmitter Agents / physiology


  • Neurotransmitter Agents