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Mater Sociomed. 2012;24(3):198-202. doi: 10.5455/msm.2012.24.198-202.

The effect of physical activity on cognition - physiological mechanisms.

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Institute of Physiology, Medical Faculty, University Ss "Cyril and Methodius" Skopje, R. Macedonia.


The presumption that physical activity, i.e. exercise, as an independent and separated factor influences different aspects of cognitive mechanisms is substantially supported by the literature. The investigations of the influence of physical activity on cognitive functioning have offered several mechanisms which could explain this relationship. Physiological mechanisms including increased cerebral blood flow, changes in neurotransmitter release, structural changes in central nervous system and altered arousal levels are based on physical changes that occur in the body as a consequence of the physical activity. There is evidence that physical training selectively increases angiogenesis, synaptogenesis and neurogenesis. The role of central (BDNF) and peripheral (estrogens, corticosteroids, growth hormone, IGF-1) factors in mediation of the effects of physical exercise on brain functions, has been promoted. Also, there is convergent data on molecular and cellular level, as well as on behavioral and systemic level which support the presumption that physical activity is beneficial to cognition. These data emphasizes the importance of promotion of physical activity during the life span for the prevention of contemporary (obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular) diseases and cognitive decline in humans.


cognition; physical activity; physiology.

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