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Naiman A. Khan and Charles H. Hillman

Physical inactivity has been shown to increase the risk for several chronic diseases across the lifespan. However, the impact of physical activity and aerobic fitness on childhood cognitive and brain health has only recently gained attention. The purposes of this article are to: 1) highlight the recent emphasis for increasing physical activity and aerobic fitness in children’s lives for cognitive and brain health; 2) present aspects of brain development and cognitive function that are susceptible to physical activity intervention; 3) review neuroimaging studies examining the cross-sectional and experimental relationships between aerobic fitness and executive control function; and 4) make recommendations for future research. Given that the human brain is not fully developed until the third decade of life, preadolescence is characterized by changes in brain structure and function underlying aspects of cognition including executive control and relational memory. Achieving adequate physical activity and maintaining aerobic fitness in childhood may be a critical guideline to follow for physical as well as cognitive and brain health.

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Keishi Soga, Keita Kamijo and Hiroaki Masaki

, & Kramer, 2015 for a review). For example, a cross-sectional study using a hippocampus-dependent relational memory task in children ( Chaddock et al., 2010 ) has indicated that greater aerobic fitness is associated with larger hippocampal volume and superior memory performance. A longitudinal, randomized

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Nicholas W. Baumgartner, Anne M. Walk, Caitlyn G. Edwards, Alicia R. Covello, Morgan R. Chojnacki, Ginger E. Reeser, Andrew M. Taylor, Hannah D. Holscher and Naiman A. Khan

NA , Baym CL , Monti JM , et al . Central adiposity is negatively associated with hippocampal-dependent relational memory among overweight and obese children . J Pediatr . 2015 ; 166 ( 2 ): 302 – 308.e1 . PubMed doi:10.1016/j.jpeds.2014.10.008 25454939 10.1016/j.jpeds.2014.10.008 31

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Darla M. Castelli and Ang Chen

enhances relational memory in preadolescent children: The FITKids randomized control trial . Hippocampus, 22 ( 9 ), 1876 – 1882 . PubMed ID: 22522428 doi:10.1002/hipo.22023 10.1002/hipo.22023 Muhammad , M. , Wallerstein , N. , Sussman , A.L. , Avila , M. , Belone , L. , & Duran , B

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Ramesh Kaipa, Bethany Howard, Roha Kaipa, Eric Turcat and Laurielle Prema

for Exercise and Sport, 59 , 277 – 287 . doi:10.1080/02701367.1988.10609373 Litman , L. , & Davachi , L. ( 2010 ). Distributed learning enhances relational memory consolidation . Learning & Memory, 15 , 711 – 716 . doi:10.1101/lm.1132008 Maas , E. , Barlow , J. , Robin , D