Objectives: While there is some evidence that aerobic fitness is positively associated with executive functioning in children, evidence for a relation between children's daily physical activity and their executive functioning is limited. The objective was to examine associations between objectively measured daily physical activity (total volume, sedentary behavior, moderate to vigorous physical activity) and executive functioning in children. Design: Cross-sectional. Methods: Eighty primary school children (36 boys, 44 girls) aged 8-12 years old participated in the study. Physical activity was measured using accelerometers. Executive functions measured included inhibition (Stroop test), working memory (Visual Memory Span test), cognitive flexibility (Trailmaking test), and planning (Tower of London). Total volume of physical activity, time spent in sedentary behavior and moderate to vigorous physical activity were calculated and related to performance on executive functioning. Results: More time spent in sedentary behavior was related to worse inhibition (r= -0.24). A higher total volume of physical activity was associated with better planning ability, as reflected by both a higher score on the Tower of London (r= 0.24) and a shorter total execution time (r= -0.29). Also, a significant moderate correlation was found between time spent in moderate to vigorous physical activity and the total execution time of the Tower of London (r= -0.29). Conclusions: Children should limit time spent in sedentary behavior, and increasing their total physical activity. Total volume of physical activity, which consisted mostly of light intensity physical activity, is related to executive functioning. This opens up new possibilities to explore both the quantity and quality of physical activity in relation to cognition in children.
van der Niet, A. G., Smith, J., Scherder, E. J. A., Oosterlaan, J., Hartman, E., & Visscher, C. (2015). Associations between daily physical activity and executive functioning in primary school-aged children. Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport, 18(6), 673-677. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jsams.2014.09.006