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Personalising exercise recommendations for brain health: considerations and future directions
  1. Cindy K Barha1,2,
  2. Liisa A Galea2,3,
  3. Lindsay S Nagamatsu4,
  4. Kirk I Erickson5,
  5. Teresa Liu-Ambrose1,2
  1. 1Department of Physical Therapy, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
  2. 2Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
  3. 3Department of Psychology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
  4. 4School of Kinesiology, Western University, London, Ontario, Canada
  5. 5Department of Psychology, University of Pittsburgh, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Teresa Liu-Ambrose, Ageing, Mobility, and Cognitive Neuroscience Laboratory, Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health, c/o Liu-Ambrose Laboratory, 2215 Wesbrook Mall, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada V6T 2B5; teresa.ambrose{at}


The societal value of strategies that delay the onset and progression of dementia cannot be overstated. Physical activity—unstructured and structured—is a promising, cost-effective strategy for the promotion of brain health. However, a large degree of variation exists in its efficacy. Therefore, to increase its utility as ‘medication’ for healthy cognitive ageing, it is imperative to identify key moderators and mediators of the positive effects of targeted exercise training on brain health. In this commentary, we focus on the type of targeted exercise training, the determinants of individual variation, including biological sex and genotypic factors, and the mechanisms by which exercise exerts its influence on the brain. We argue that a better understanding of these factors will allow for evidence-based, personalised, tailored exercise recommendations that go beyond the one-size-fits-all approach to successfully combat dementia.

  • Exercise
  • Gender
  • Genetics
  • Physical activity
  • Brain

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  • Contributors All authors contributed to the conception and design on this paper. CKB and TL-A drafted the work and LAG, LSN and KIE provided substantial feedback on content. All authors approve the final version.

  • Funding Canadian Institutes of Health Research to TL-A CIHR MOP-142206.

  • Competing interests None declared.

  • Provenance and peer review Not commissioned; externally peer reviewed.

  • Data sharing statement No additional data are available.