The relationship between physical activity and executive functions among youth in low-income urban schools in the Northeast and Southwest United States

Jesse Mala, Jennifer McGarry, Kristen E. Riley, Elaine C.H. Lee, Lindsay DiStefano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

The purpose of this study was to examine if physical activity is related to greater executive functions among youth in poverty. Executive functions (cognitive flexibility, inhibition, and working memory) and physical activity were measured in participants (N = 149) in the fifth to eighth grade from three schools located in high-poverty districts. Pearson correlations revealed a statistically significant correlation between physical activity and cognitive flexibility (r =.18, p <.05). Hierarchical multiple regressions revealed that physical activity significantly improved prediction for cognitive flexibility, R2 =.09, F(6, 142) = 2.26, p =.041, adjusted R2 =.05, above sex, maturity, and school district. A two-way multivariate analysis of covariance revealed statistically significant differences in working memory in more active youth compared with less active but no statistically significant differences in cognitive flexibility or inhibition (p <.05). Greater physical activity is associated with greater working memory among youth in poverty.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)292-306
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Sport and Exercise Psychology
Volume42
Issue number4
DOIs
StatePublished - Aug 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Applied Psychology

Keywords

  • Children
  • Cognitive function
  • Physical education
  • Poverty

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