Effects of Cognitively Engaging Physical Activity on Preschool Children’s Cognitive Outcomes
Research Quarterly for Exercise and Sport
Research combining physical activity with the training of cognitive skills such as executive functions is emerging as a novel and fruitful intervention approach for children. Purpose: This study aimed to examine the impact of an intervention program including cognitively engaging physical activity on preschool children’s cognitive outcomes and physical activity. Methods: Children (N = 144, 65 female; M age = 4.41 years, SD = 0.61), randomly assigned to one of three groups: cognitively engaging physical activity (CPA; i.e., storytelling, cognitive activities, and motor tasks, n = 55), cognition (i.e., storytelling and cognitive activities without motor tasks, n = 48), or control (i.e., traditional storytelling, n = 41). Sessions lasted approximately 17 minutes, conducted twice a week, for 6 weeks. Children’s executive function, self-regulation, and related outcomes (i.e., numeracy) were assessed at baseline and again—along with perceived enjoyment—at the end of the program. Accelerometers measured children’s physical activity during each session. Teachers completed a logbook for each session, and two fidelity checks per preschool took place by the researcher. Main analyses used linear mixed models adjusted for covariates (age, sex) and clustering at the preschool level. Results: Results showed no significant group by time interaction for executive function, self-regulation, numeracy, enjoyment. During the sessions, children in the CPA group were more physically active than children in the cognition and control groups. Conclusion: While we did not find the expected amplified cognitive benefits, making storytelling more active has the potential to meet two needs (increase cognitive stimulation and physical activity levels) in one deed.