Accelerometer-Measured, Habitual Physical Activity and Circulating Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor: A Cross-Sectional Study

Nicole L. Spartano, Jayandra J. Himali, Ludovic Trinquart, Qiong Yang, Galit Weinstein, Claudia L. Satizabal, Kimberly A. Dukes, Alexa S. Beiser, Joanne M. Murabito, Ramachandran S. Vasan, Sudha Seshadri

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Background: One of the mechanisms suggested to link physical activity (PA) to favorable brain health is through stimulation of neural growth factors such as brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF). Acute bouts of PA stimulate circulating BDNF levels. Objective: In this investigation, we assessed whether habitual, accelerometer-measured PA levels were related to circulating BDNF levels in a middle-aged cohort. Methods: In the Framingham Heart Study Third Generation cohort, 1,769 participants provided reliable accelerometry data and were not missing BDNF measurement or platelet counts. In a cross-sectional analysis, using multivariable regression, we related PA measures to serum BDNF levels, adjusting for age, sex, smoking status, platelet count, depression status, and accelerometer wear time. Results: Our study participants (mean age 47±9 years, 50.8% women) spent an average of 22.3 mins/day in moderate-to-vigorous (MV)PA. Most PA variables (steps, MVPA, light activity, and sedentary time) were not related to BDNF levels (p > 0.05). We observed a non-linear trend, where 15-50 mins/week vigorous activity was associated with lower BDNF compared to those with 0 min vigorous activity (β= -0.049±0.024, p = 0.05), but with no significant associations at lower or higher vigorous activity levels. In smokers, MVPA was also associated with lower BDNF levels (β= -0.216±0.079, p = 0.01). Conclusion: Our study reveals that circulating BDNF is not chronically elevated in individuals with higher levels of habitual PA in middle-aged adults from the community and may even be chronically suppressed with higher PA in subgroups, including current smokers. These results do not contradict previous studies demonstrating that circulating BDNF rises acutely after PA.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)801-810
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Alzheimer's Disease
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2022


  • Epidemiology
  • exercise
  • growth factor
  • sedentary time

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geriatrics and Gerontology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Clinical Psychology
  • General Neuroscience


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