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Aerobic Fitness and Neurocognitive Function in Healthy Preadolescent Children


Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: November 2005 - Volume 37 - Issue 11 - p 1967-1974
doi: 10.1249/01.mss.0000176680.79702.ce
Applied Sciences: Psychobiology and Behavorial Strategies

Purpose: We investigated the relationship between age, aerobic fitness, and cognitive function by comparing high- and low-fit preadolescent children and adults.

Method: Twenty-four children (mean age = 9.6 yr) and 27 adults (mean age = 19.3 yr) were grouped according to their fitness (high, low) such that four approximately equal groups were compared. Fitness was assessed using the Fitnessgram test, and cognitive function was measured by neuroelectric and behavioral responses to a stimulus discrimination task.

Results: Adults exhibited greater P3 amplitude at Cz and Pz sites, and decreased amplitude at the Oz site compared with children. High-fit children had greater P3 amplitude compared with low-fit children and high- and low-fit adults. Further, adults had faster P3 latency compared with children, and high-fit participants had faster P3 latency compared with low-fit participants at the Oz site. Adults exhibited faster reaction time than children; however, fitness interacted with age such that high-fit children had faster reaction time than low-fit children.

Conclusion: These findings suggest that fitness was positively associated with neuroelectric indices of attention and working memory, and response speed in children. Fitness was also associated with cognitive processing speed, but these findings were not age-specific. These data indicate that fitness may be related to better cognitive functioning in preadolescents and have implications for increasing cognitive health in children and adults.

Department of Kinesiology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Urbana-Champaign, IL

Address for correspondence: Charles H. Hillman, Ph.D., Department of Kinesiology, 213 Louise Freer Hall, 906 South Goodwin Avenue, University of Illinois, Urbana, IL 61801; E-mail:

Submitted for publication October 2004.

Accepted for publication June 2005.

This research was supported in part by a National Institute on Aging grant (AG21188) to C.H. and a University of Illinois Research Board grant to D.C. and C.H. We thank Heather Erwin, Amy Son, and Marcy Bice for their assistance in data collection, and the Champaign County School District for their assistance in participant recruitment.

©2005The American College of Sports Medicine