Benefits of exercise training on cerebrovascular and cognitive function in ageing

J Cereb Blood Flow Metab. 2021 Mar;41(3):447-470. doi: 10.1177/0271678X20957807. Epub 2020 Sep 20.


Derangements in cerebrovascular structure and function can impair cognitive performance throughout ageing and in cardiometabolic disease states, thus increasing dementia risk. Modifiable lifestyle factors that cause a decline in cardiometabolic health, such as physical inactivity, exacerbate these changes beyond those that are associated with normal ageing. The purpose of this review was to examine cerebrovascular, cognitive and neuroanatomical adaptations to ageing and the potential benefits of exercise training on these outcomes in adults 50 years or older. We systematically searched for cross-sectional or intervention studies that included exercise (aerobic, resistance or multimodal) and its effect on cerebrovascular function, cognition and neuroanatomical adaptations in this age demographic. The included studies were tabulated and described narratively. Aerobic exercise training was the predominant focus of the studies identified; there were limited studies exploring the effects of resistance exercise training and multimodal training on cerebrovascular function and cognition. Collectively, the evidence indicated that exercise can improve cerebrovascular function, cognition and neuroplasticity through areas of the brain associated with executive function and memory in adults 50 years or older, irrespective of their health status. However, more research is required to ascertain the mechanisms of action.

Keywords: Dementia; ageing; cerebrovascular function; cognition; exercise training.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aging*
  • Animals
  • Brain / physiology*
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Exercise*
  • Health Status
  • Humans
  • Oxygen Consumption
  • Resistance Training