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Mini Review ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Neurosci. | doi: 10.3389/fnins.2019.00884

In the long run: physical activity in early life and cognitive ageing

  • 1GKT School of Medical Education, Faculty of Life Sciences & Medicine, King's College London, United Kingdom
  • 2Department of Basic and Clinical Neuroscience, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King's College London, United Kingdom

A certain degree of age-related cognitive decline is normal; however, some people retain more cognitive function than others. Cognitive impairment is associated with an increased risk of dementia. Thus, understanding the factors that contribute to cognitive reserve is crucial, so effective strategies for the prevention of dementia can be developed. Engaging in physical activity can delay cognitive decline and reduce the risk of dementia and a number of early life conditions have been shown to have long-lasting effects on cognition. This mini-review combines these two observations to evaluate the evidence from both animal models and epidemiological studies for physical activity in early life (≤ 30 years) delaying cognitive decline in later life (cognition tested ≥ 60 years).
Three epidemiological studies were found; two showed a positive association and one found none. The latter was deemed to have an unreliable method.
A review of animal studies found none that analysed the effect of physical activity in early life on cognition in later life. However, in rodent models that analysed mid-life cognition, runners showed improved cognition and enhanced adult hippocampal neurogenesis, changes which were preserved across the life span.
Currently, there is insufficient evidence to conclude whether physical activity in early life may delay cognitive decline in later life, but these results indicate that further studies are warranted. Future human research should be in the form of longitudinal studies that begin below ≤ 15 years and assess sex differences. Crucially, the physical activity data must define type, quantity and intensity of exercise.

Keywords: Cognition, cognitive decline, Exercise, early life, old age, Cognitive Reserve, prevention

Received: 18 Apr 2019; Accepted: 07 Aug 2019.

Edited by:

Aderbal S. Aguiar Jr, Federal University of Santa Catarina, Brazil

Reviewed by:

Karen A. Mather, University of New South Wales, Australia
Luiz Royes, Universidade Federal de Santa Maria, Brazil
Andreia M. Cardoso, Universidade Federal da Fronteira Sul, Brazil  

Copyright: © 2019 Greene, Lee and Thuret. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Dr. Sandrine Thuret, Department of Basic and Clinical Neuroscience, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology & Neuroscience, King's College London, London, SE5 9RX, United Kingdom,