Physical Activity and Cognition: A Narrative Review


  • Bridget Furlong1 , Asha K. Vas2 Anna Luedtke B.S3



BDNF, Brain injury, Cognition, Cognitive rehabilitation, Physical activity


Introduction. Cognitive rehabilitation programs have traditionally focused on mental strategies targeting

executive-functions, memory, and language. However, researchers are increasingly exploiting avenues to

enhance benefits of cognitive training to facilitate neuroplasticity through integrative therapies. Purpose.

The aim of this paper is to provide an overview of the evidence that supports addition of physical activity

into traditional cognitive rehabilitation, creating a more integrated treatment approach. Specifically, the

evidence focuses on increased levels of Brain-Derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), a specific growth

factor in neuroplasticity, following physical activity. Method. This narrative review chose a representative

sample of the evidence that informs cognitive gains as a result of physical activity, with an emphasis on

BDNF. A comprehensive review of the literature was conducted across PubMed, Cinahl, and PsycInfo,

and a representative sample of the evidence was selected that informs the effects of physical activity on

cognition, as well as the relationship with BDNF. Conclusion. The review supports the addition of physical

activity into cognitive rehabilitation programs to enhanced cognition in clinical populations. However, more

evidence is needed to support the duration and type of activity that would produce the most benefit.

Author Biography

Bridget Furlong1 , Asha K. Vas2 Anna Luedtke B.S3

1 OTR, Occupational Therapist, 2 Associate Professor, 3 Graduate Student, Eryn Ortiz, B.S., Graduate Student, John

Humphrey, MLS, Health Sciences Librarian