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Purpose:

The evidence regarding the role of physical activity (PA) habits on cognitive development in children is still scarce. Our study aimed to assess the association between PA habits and cognitive growth patterns, including working memory (WM) and inattentiveness in a large sample of primary schoolchildren.

Method:

This study included 2,897 children between 7 and 10 years old. WM was measured using the n-back task (2- and 3-back) and inattentiveness was measured using the attentional network task (ANT) on four occasions during one year. Parents completed a questionnaire with data about the extracurricular exercise of their child, commuting to school and other sociodemographic information at the first visit.

Results:

Exercising twice per week or more was associated with better 2-back, 3-back and inattentiveness scores at baseline, as compared with the once per week or less category. Active commuting for more than 50 min was associated with better 3-back scores at baseline, as compared with passive commuting. No consistent associations were found between PA and cognitive growth.

Conclusion:

Overall, although children with high levels of PA performed better in cognitive tasks at baseline, PA levels had no clear effects on cognitive growth trajectories.

The authors are with the Centre for Research in Environmental Epidemiology (CREAL), ISGlobal, Barcelona, Spain.

Address author correspondence to Mónica López-Vicente at monica. lopez.vicente@gmail.com.