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J Pediatr. 2019 Mar 19. pii: S0022-3476(18)31745-1. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2018.12.028. [Epub ahead of print]

Physical Fitness, Physical Activity, and the Executive Function in Children with Overweight and Obesity.

Author information

1
PROFITH "PROmoting FITness and Health through physical activity" Research Group, Department of Physical and Sports Education, Faculty of Sports Science, University of Granada, Spain; Department of Kinesiology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI. Electronic address: jmorag@ugr.es.
2
PROFITH "PROmoting FITness and Health through physical activity" Research Group, Department of Physical and Sports Education, Faculty of Sports Science, University of Granada, Spain; Center for Cognitive and Brain Health, Department of Psychology, Northeastern University, Boston, MA.
3
PROFITH "PROmoting FITness and Health through physical activity" Research Group, Department of Physical and Sports Education, Faculty of Sports Science, University of Granada, Spain.
4
PROFITH "PROmoting FITness and Health through physical activity" Research Group, Department of Physical and Sports Education, Faculty of Sports Science, University of Granada, Spain; Department of Rehabilitation Sciences, KU Leuven - University of Leuven, Leuven, Belgium.
5
PROFITH "PROmoting FITness and Health through physical activity" Research Group, Department of Physical and Sports Education, Faculty of Sports Science, University of Granada, Spain; Department of Biosciences and Nutrition, Karolinska Institutet, Huddinge, Sweden; Department of Medical and Health Sciences, Linköping University, Linköping, Sweden.
6
Department of Kinesiology, Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI.
7
Department of Experimental Psychology, Mind, Brain and Behaviour Research Centre (CIMCYC), University of Granada, Granada, Spain.

Abstract

OBJECTIVE:

To examine the associations of physical fitness and physical activity with executive function in children with overweight and obesity.

STUDY DESIGN:

A cross-sectional study involving 100 children with overweight and obesity (10.1 ± 1.1 years old; 58.0% boys). We assessed physical fitness components (ie, muscular strength, speed-agility, and cardiorespiratory fitness) using the ALPHA battery, and physical activity and sedentary time by accelerometry. Cognitive flexibility was measured by the Design Fluency Test and Trail Making Test, inhibition by the Stroop test, and planning ability by the Zoo Map Test.

RESULTS:

Handgrip strength was positively associated with planning ability (P = .025). Speed-agility was positively related to cognitive flexibility and inhibition (P < .05). Cardiorespiratory fitness and an overall fitness Z-score were positively associated with indicators of cognitive flexibility (P < .05). No associations were found for physical activity and sedentary time with executive function (P ≥ .05).

CONCLUSIONS:

Muscular strength, speed agility, and cardiorespiratory fitness are associated with executive function in children with overweight and obesity. Cognitive flexibility seems to be more robustly associated with all fitness components, whereas planning ability and inhibition might depend on the component analyzed. The positive associations found in the present study in children with overweight and obesity call for more exercise-based randomized controlled trials in this population.

KEYWORDS:

aerobic fitness; brain; cognitive control; cognitive performance; executive control; health; youth

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