Physical activity is purported to promote children’s brain health and enhance mental development (1). Three studies were selected for review because of their focus on issues that challenge translational research applications in exercise pediatric science. While some disagreement exists concerning the definition of translational research, most suggest that translational interventions focus on the uptake, implementation, and sustainability of research findings within standard care (2). Translational researchers typically highlight differences that exist between efficacy experiments, which provide evidence that a specific intervention works, and effectiveness experiments, which show that the intervention will reap benefits under real-world conditions. Results obtained from laboratory-based efficacy studies that have examined the relation between exercise and cognition led researchers (3,4) and policy makers to consider the importance of physical activity in school settings. Large-scale studies that assess the impact of various types of school based physical activity intervention on children’s cognitive and academic performance have begun. The initial results have been uneven and suggestive of a lack of benefit for children in authentic school settings. Before drawing such conclusions, however, it will be important for researchers and practitioners to recognize the methodological and measurement issues that challenge attempts to employ laboratory methodologies to academic settings.
The author is with the Dept. of Kinesiology, University of Georgia, Athens, GA.