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Exercise and Pediatric Brain Development: A Call to Action

Sidney J. Segalowitz

Exercise has long been reputed to have beneficial effects on cognitive processes and emotional stability, with obvious applications to lifespan developmental issues in mental health. Over the last 20 years, animal studies have provided potential mechanisms for this link in neurophysiological terms. Only a very small number of studies have applied this model to well-controlled child and adolescent studies of psychological development, with such studies necessarily requiring collaboration across the fields of exercise science and developmental psychology. In this paper, I outline why the field is now well positioned to increase this effort. Core to this argument is an outline of historical reasons for a (somewhat still active) resistance to this integrative perspective within developmental psychology and a brief synopsis of the countering evidence, followed by a summary of how advances in electrophysiology now make such studies highly accessible and reasonable in terms of cost and convenience.