The Effect of Physical Activity on Executive Function: A Brief Commentary on Definitions, Measurement Issues, and the Current State of the Literature

in Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology
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The purpose of the present commentary is to introduce relevant issues with respect to the measurement of executive function in physical activity studies. Suggested definitions of executive function are introduced, and executive function tasks that are commonly used in the neuropsychological literature are presented and briefly described. The extant literature on physical activity and cognition is discussed, and issues relative to the limitations of this body of literature are raised. In summary, research on the effect of physical activity on executive function is still in its infancy. We encourage researchers in this field to provide a clear definition of executive function, to carefully consider the relevance of published effect sizes to their own research questions, and to consider either providing a logical rationale for their selection of particular executive function measures or to use multiple measures of executive function when exploring relationships between physical activity and executive function.

Etnier is with the Department of Kinesiology, University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Greensboro, NC. Chang is now at the Institute of Coaching Science at the National Taiwan Sport University, Gueishan, Taiwan.

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