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Declines in cognitive functioning are a normal and widespread consequence of normal aging. Lacking promising drug interventions for reducing cognitive deficits, the field of cognitive aging has turned to nonpharmacologic treatments that could prevent or delay cognitive decline, or even improve performance in those at risk for decline. Physical activity is one of the most promising behavioral approaches for influencing cognitive and brain health. In this chapter, we first describe the ways of studying the relationship between physical activity, cardiorespiratory fitness, and cognitive functioning. We then summarize the existing evidence for how physical activity and cardiorespiratory fitness influence both cognition and the brain in the context of aging. By the end of the chapter, readers should be able to describe (1) typical patterns of associations between physical activity, cardiorespiratory fitness, and cognitive and brain health in older adults; (2) the evidence that increasing physical activity improves cognitive functioning in older adults; and (3) whether physical activity influences cognitive functions and brain health in older adults with mild to more severe cognitive deficits, such as found in people with mild cognitive impairment or dementia.
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