As people age, the human brain typically shrinks in size. However, some recent research led by Dr. Erickson (2013) and colleagues suggests that one of the benefits of physical activity is that it is linked to heightened brain functioning, enhanced cognitive functioning and lower cortical atrophy.
According to this research, it may be that physical activity serves to maximize the brain’s own plasticity. Certain areas in the brain seem to be more influenced by physical activity including the prefrontal and hippocampal regions.
Researchers led by Dr. Kirk Erickson at the University of Pittsburgh suggest that some of the benefits of physical activity include using physical activity as a helpful intervention to enhance emotional and cognitive functioning in later adulthood.