Authors: Phillip D. Tomporowski and Kathryn Beasman
Abstract: Historically, optimal health has been thought to reflect the interplay among three aspects of human nature: processes of the body (physiological functions), processes of the mind (cognitive functions), and processes of the spirit (affective functions). A long-held belief is that optimal health can be achieved by maintaining a lifestyle that includes vigorous physical activity. Considerable advances have been made in our understanding of the impact of physical activity on physiological processing, and the impact physical activity has on affect has received substantial attention over the past few decades. Less well understood, however, is the relation between physical activity and mental processing. The view that a healthy body is a vessel for a healthy mind has been promoted worldwide for centuries. Empirical evidence in support of the veracity of the relation between physical activity and mental functioning has been, until relatively recently, elusive. This chapter examines: 1) recent research into the impact of physical activity on cognitive functioning, 2) the biological plausibility for exercise’s effects on cognitive functions, and 3) the importance of physical activity for children and older adults.