“Move” Their Brain: Motor Competence Mediates the Relationship of Physical Activity and Executive Functions in Children

Publication Name

Applied Sciences (Switzerland)


The inconsistent conclusions regarding the effects of physical activity (PA) on children’s executive functions (EFs) call for an investigation of the mediators that may explain this relationship during development. This study attempted to examine the potential mediating role of children’s weight status and motor competence (MC) in the PA-EFs relationship. In this regard, 115 children (Mage = 10.3 ± 1.2 years, 42.61% boys) practicing sports were cross-sectionally assessed for their PA (pedometers); BMI (body mass and height); MC (Bruininks–Oseretsky Test of Motor Proficiency); EFs (via computerized tests). The associations among the variables were examined using structural equation modelling. Based on the significant correlation between them (PA was not related to EFs, and BMI was not related to other variables), a serial path model was considered for investigation (PA→MC→EFs). The model fitted well with the data (χ2[5] = 7.244, p = 0.203; CFI= 0.991; RMSEA = 0.071 [0.000, 175], p = 0.315). The unstandardized path coefficients were significant (p < 0.05) (PA predicts MC/MC predicts EFs). All (but one) direct and all indirect effects were significant (p < 0.05), confirming that MC is an intervening variable in the PA-EFs relationship. Given that the cognitive/coordinative challenges related to PA are important to EFs development, children should be encouraged to participate in PA, especially sports, in programs targeting their motor skills.

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Article Number


Funding Sponsor

Secretaría de Educación Superior, Ciencia, Tecnología e Innovación



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