Research News Flash
Previous studies have found that higher levels of aerobic fitness are related to greater inhibitory control and working memory performance. This study analyzed the relationship between aerobic fitness and cognitive performance in a large sample of second and third grade students.
The study used the Progressive Aerobic Cardiovascular Endurance Run (PACER) to collect data on fitness levels. PACER involves running back and forth between two lines that are 20 meters apart within a specific time period. To measure the cognitive function of the children, the researchers used a flanker and spatial n-back test. The flanker, which measures accuracy and reaction time (inhibitory control) during the task, requires the child to focus on a centrally located object (a goldfish) and identify which direction the object is facing. The child must ignore the other objects on the screen in order to correctly identify the positioning of the goldfish. The spatial n-back test analyzes working memory demands and requires the child to identify in which of the six boxes on the screen an object (a cow) appears.
The results of this study showed that fitness had a strong association with higher working memory scores, more accurate performance of cognitive tasks, fewer false alarms, smaller response time, and a general increase in level of performance in higher-fit children when compared to their lower-fit peers. The low cost and ease of use of administering the PACER makes this a viable option for future use in schools. The results of this study are applicable to a general, able-bodied population. Therefore, future research should focus on analyzing the effect of fitness on cognitive performance in youth with disabilities.
Scudder, M. R, Lambourne, K., Eric S. Drollette, E. S., Herrmann, S. D., Washburn, R. A., Donnelly, J. E., & Hillman, C. H. (2014). Aerobic Capacity and Cognitive Control in Elementary School-Age Children. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 46(5), 1025-1035.