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Longitudinal Associations of Fitness, Motor Competence, and Adiposity with Cognition

Haapala, Eero A.1,2; Lintu, Niina2; Väistö, Juuso2; Tompuri, Tuomo3; Soininen, Sonja2,4; Viitasalo, Anna2,5; Eloranta, Aino-Maija2; Venäläinen, Taisa6; Sääkslahti, Arja1; Laitinen, Tomi3,7; Lakka, Timo A.2,7,8

Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise: October 25, 2018 - Volume Publish Ahead of Print - Issue - p
doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000001826
Original Investigation: PDF Only

Purpose To investigate the longitudinal associations of cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF), motor competence (MC), and body fat percentage (BF%) with cognition in children.

Methods Altogether 371 children (188 boys, 183 girls) aged 6–9 years at baseline participated in this 2-year follow-up study. We assessed CRF by maximal cycle ergometer test, computed the MC score from the z-scores of 50-metre shuttle run, static balance, and box and block test results, measured BF% by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry, and assessed cognition using the Raven’s Coloured Progressive Matrices (RCPM) score. The associations were studied by linear regression analysis and analysis of covariance with repeated measures.

Results In boys, a higher MC score (β=-0.161, 95% CI=-0.314 to -0.009), a shorter 50-metre shuttle run test duration (β=0.152, 95% CI=0.007 to 0.296), and a higher number of cubes moved in the BBT (β=-0.161, 95% CI=-0.309 to -0.013) at baseline were associated with a smaller increase in the RCPM score during follow-up. These associations were largely explained by the RCPM score at baseline. However, boys in the highest third (mean difference=2.5, 95% CI for difference=0.66 to 4.33) and the middle third (mean difference=2.1, 95% CI for difference=0.39 to 3.82) of the MC score at baseline had a higher RCPM score over the 2-year follow-up than boys in the lowest third. CRF, MC, or adiposity were not associated with the RCPM score in girls. Changes in CRF, MC, or BF% were not associated with changes in cognition.

Conclusions Higher MC at baseline predicted better cognition during the first two school years in boys but not in girls. CRF or adiposity was not associated with cognition in boys or girls.

1Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences, University of Jyväskylä, Jyväskylä, Finland;

2Institute of Biomedicine, School of Medicine, University of Eastern Finland, Kuopio, Finland;

3Department of Clinical Physiology and Nuclear Medicine, Kuopio University Hospital, Kuopio, Finland;

4Social and Health Center, City of Varkaus, Finland;

5Novo Nordisk Foundation Center for Basic Metabolic Research, Section of Metabolic Genetics, Faculty of Health and Medical Sciences, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark;

6Institute of Public Health and Clinical Nutrition, School of Medicine, University of Eastern Finland, Kuopio, Finland;

7Institute of Clinical Medicine, University of Eastern Finland, Kuopio Campus, Finland, and

8Foundation for Research in Health Exercise and Nutrition, Kuopio Research Institute of Exercise Medicine, Kuopio, Finland

Accepted for Publication: 22 October 2018

Address correspondence to: Eero A. Haapala, PhD, Sports and Exercise Medicine, Faculty of Sport and Health Sciences, University of Jyväskylä, PO Box 35, FI-40014 University of Jyväskylä, room VIV 247, email:; telephone: +358408054210

The PANIC Study has financially been supported by Ministry of Education and Culture of Finland, Research Committee of the Kuopio University Hospital Catchment Area (State Research Funding), Finnish Innovation Fund Sitra, Social Insurance Institution of Finland, Finnish Cultural Foundation, Foundation for Paediatric Research, Diabetes Research Foundation in Finland, Finnish Foundation for Cardiovascular Research, Juho Vainio Foundation, Paavo Nurmi Foundation, Yrjö Jahnsson Foundation, and the city of Kuopio. Moreover, the PhD students and postdoctoral researchers of the PANIC Study have been supported by Program for Clinical Research and Program for Health Sciences of Doctoral School of University of Eastern Finland, Finnish Doctoral Programs in Public Health, Päivikki and Sakari Sohlberg Foundation, Paulo Foundation, Jalmari and Rauha Ahokas Foundation, Aarne and Aili Turunen Foundation, Finnish Medical Foundation, Jenny and Antti Wihuri Foundation, Kuopio Naturalists' Society, Olvi Foundation, the Aino Eerola and Orion Trusts of Finnish Medical Foundation, the Foundation for Diabetes Research, and the city of Kuopio. The work of Dr. Haapala was part of the University of Jyväskylä profiling area of multidisciplinary brain research funded by Academy of Finland. The sponsors had no role in designing the study, the collection, analysis, or interpretation of the data, the writing of the report, or the decision to submit the manuscript for publication. The authors declare that there are no conflicts of interest.

The results of the present study do not constitute endorsement by ACSM. The Authors declare that the results of the study are presented clearly, honestly, and without fabrication, falsification, or inappropriate data manipulation.

© 2019 American College of Sports Medicine