Effects of Aerobic Exercise on Brain and Behavior

Projekt SensCog (Fitness) | Center for Lifespan Psychology
© MPI fuer Bildungsforschung

Physical fitness appears to have beneficial effects on cognitive functioning in old age, but the physiological mechanisms underlying this effect remain unclear.

The dissertation of Maike Kleemeyer examined this issue in an exercise intervention. Fifty-two older adults aged 59–74 years were randomly assigned to aerobic training regimens that differed in intensity. For 6 months, individuals exercised three times a week for 1 hour on stationary bicycles. Participants' fitness was assessed before, immediately after, and 6 months after termination of training. Assessments at the three time points also comprised brain-related and cognitive measures. For example, the structural part of the magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) protocol included diffusion tensor imaging and arterial spin labeling, and the functional MRI protocol included assessments of working memory and the passive viewing of faces and houses.


Bierbauer, W., Inauen, J., Schaefer, S., Kleemeyer, M., Lüscher, J., König, C., ... Scholz, U. (2017). Health behavior change in older adults: Testing the health action process approach at the inter- and intraindividual level. Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, 9, 324–348. doi: 10.1111/ aphw.12094

Kleemeyer, M. M., Polk, T. A., Schaefer, S., Bodammer, N. C., Brechtel, L., & Lindenberger, U. (2017). Exercise-induced fitness changes correlate with changes in neural specificity in older adults. Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, 11:123. doi: 10.3389/fnhum. 2017.00123

Kleemeyer, M. M., Kühn, S., Prindle, J., Bodammer, N. C., Brechtel, L., Garthe, A., ... Lindenberger, U. (2016). Changes in fitness are associated with changes in hippocampal microstructure and hippocampal volume in older adults. NeuroImage, 131, 155–161. doi: 10.1016/j.neuroimage.2015. 11.026