Exercise, Fitness and the Aging Brain: A Review of Functional Connectivity in Aging
Aging is associated with changes in brain structure and function with some brain regions showing more age-related deterioration than others. There is evidence that regional changes in brain structure and function may affect the functioning of other, less- age-sensitive brain regions and lead to more global changes in brain efficiency and cognitive functioning. Fortunately, emerging evidence from health neuroscience suggests that age-related brain changes and associated cognitive declines may not be inevitable. In fact, they may even be reversible. Exercise is a particularly promising health behavior known to induce changes in regional brain structure and function in older adults. However, much less is known about how exercise affects the organization of brain networks in late life. The purpose of this review is to summarize what is known to date regarding the relationships between functional connectivity, exercise, fitness, and physical activity in aging. A critical summary of this literature may reveal novel mechanisms by which physical activity influences brain health, which in turn may be leveraged to improve other aspects of functioning, including physical, cognitive, and mental health in late life.