Childhood Activity and Midlife Brain Fitness

Links found between physical activity during youth and cognitive performance later in life.

By Shirley Archer, JD, MA
Sep 23, 2019

Here’s one more solid reason to inspire kids to exercise. The secret to maintaining cognitive fitness later in life may lie in getting active while young and staying active throughout teen, young-adult and middle-aged years.

In a longitudinal study involving 3,596 people ages 3–18, with follow-ups at 3- to 9-year intervals over 31 years, Finnish investigators found that cumulative exposure to physical activity from childhood to adulthood was associated with better reaction time during midlife. In addition, for men, cumulative physical activity in young adulthood and adulthood was linked with better visual processing and sustained attention.

Study authors recommend that people adopt a physically active lifestyle in childhood, adolescence and young adulthood and continue it as they age in order to ensure midlife cognitive performance benefits.

See also: Inside the Latest Physical Activity Guidelines


Shirley Archer, JD, MA

Shirley Archer, JD, MA, is the 2008 IDEA Fitness Instructor of the Year and is IDEA's mind-body-spirit spokesperson. She is a certified yoga and Pilates teacher and an award-winning author based in Los Angeles, California, and Zurich, Switzerland. Two of her books, The Walking Deck and The Strength and Toning Deck, are now featured as iPhone apps. Contact her at

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