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The authors performed a clustered randomized controlled trial to investigate the effects of an aerobic and a cognitively demanding exercise intervention on executive functions in primary-school-age children compared with the regular physical education program (N = 856). They hypothesized that both exercise interventions would facilitate executive functioning, with stronger effects for the cognitively demanding exercise group. The interventions were provided four times per week for 14 weeks. Linear mixed models were conducted on posttest neurocognitive function measures with baseline level as covariate. No differences were found between the exercise interventions and the control group for any of the measures. Independently of group, dose of moderate to vigorous physical activity was positively related to verbal working memory and attention abilities. This study showed that physical exercise interventions did not enhance executive functioning in children. Exposure to moderate to vigorous physical activity is a crucial aspect of the relationship between physical activity and executive functioning.
Meijer and Oosterlaan are with the Clinical Neuropsychology Section, Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, Amsterdam, the Netherlands. Königs and Oosterlaan are with the Emma Neuroscience Group, Reproduction and Development, Dept. of Pediatrics, Emma Children’s Hospital, Amsterdam UMC, University of Amsterdam, Amsterdam, the Netherlands. van der Fels, Visscher, and Hartman are with the Center for Human Movement Sciences, University Medical Center Groningen, and Bosker, the Groningen Inst. for Educational Research, University of Groningen, Groningen, the Netherlands.