PURPOSE: A growing body of evidence has demonstrated the positive effects of physical exercise on cognition in children, and recent studies have specifically investigated the cognitive benefits of exercises involving cognitive-motor interactions, such as gymnastics. This study examined the effect of 8 weeks of gymnastics training on behavioral and neurophysiological measures of spatial working memory in children.
METHODS: Forty-four children aged 7 to 10 yrs were recruited. The experimental group (n = 24; age: 8.7 +/- 1.1 yrs) were recruited from Yilan County in Taiwan, while the control group (n = 20; age: 8.6 +/- 1.1 yrs) resided in Taipei City. The experimental group undertook 8 weeks of after-school gymnastics training (2 sessions/week, 90 minutes/session), while the control group received no intervention, and were instructed to maintain their routine daily activities. Working memory was assessed by performance on a modified delayed match-to-sample test, and by event-related potential including the P3 component. Data was collected pre and post treatment for the experimental group, and at the same time interval for the control group.
RESULTS: Response accuracy improved following the experimental intervention regardless of working memory demands. Likewise, the P3 amplitude was larger at the parietal site after gymnastics training regardless of the task difficulty.
CONCLUSION: Our results suggest that a short period of gymnastics training had a general facilitative effect on spatial working memory at both a behavioral and neurophysiological level in children. These finding highlight the potential importance of exercise programs involving cognitive-motor interactions in stimulating development of spatial cognition during childhood.
(C) 2017 American College of Sports Medicine