The Relationship Between Physical Activity and Executive Functions Among Youth in Low-Income Urban Schools in the Northeast and Southwest United States

in Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology
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  • 1 University of Connecticut
  • 2 Rutgers University
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The purpose of this study was to examine if physical activity is related to greater executive functions among youth in poverty. Executive functions (cognitive flexibility, inhibition, and working memory) and physical activity were measured in participants (N = 149) in the fifth to eighth grade from three schools located in high-poverty districts. Pearson correlations revealed a statistically significant correlation between physical activity and cognitive flexibility (r = .18, p < .05). Hierarchical multiple regressions revealed that physical activity significantly improved prediction for cognitive flexibility, R2 = .09, F(6, 142) = 2.26, p = .041, adjusted R2 = .05, above sex, maturity, and school district. A two-way multivariate analysis of covariance revealed statistically significant differences in working memory in more active youth compared with less active but no statistically significant differences in cognitive flexibility or inhibition (p < .05). Greater physical activity is associated with greater working memory among youth in poverty.

Mala and McGarry are with the Dept. of Educational Leadership, Neag School of Education, and Lee and DiStefano, the Dept. of Kinesiology, College of Agriculture, Health and NaturalResources, University of Connecticut, Storrs, CT, USA. Riley is with the Clinical Psychology Dept., Rutgers Graduate School of Applied and Professional Psychology, Rutgers University, New Brunswick, NJ, USA.

Mala (jesse.mala@uconn.edu) is corresponding author.
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