One of the most studied aspects of children’s cognitive development is that of the development of the executive function, and research has shown that physical activity has been demonstrated as a key factor in its enhancement. This meta-analysis aims to assess the impact of specific sports interventions on the executive function of children and teenagers. A systematic review was carried out on 1 November 2020 to search for published scientific evidence that analysed different sports programs that possibly affected executive function in students. Longitudinal studies, which assessed the effects of sports interventions on subjects between 6 and 18 years old, were identified through a systematic search of the four principal electronic databases: Web of Science, PubMed, Scopus, and EBSCO. A total of eight studies, with 424 subjects overall, met the inclusion criteria and were classified based on one or more of the following categories: working memory, inhibitory control, and cognitive flexibility. The random-effects model for meta-analyses was performed with RevMan version 5.3 to facilitate the analysis of the studies. Large effect sizes were found in all categories: working memory (ES −1.25; 95% CI −1.70; −0.79; p < 0.0001); inhibitory control (ES −1.30; 95% CI −1.98; −0.63; p < 0.00001); and cognitive flexibility (ES −1.52; 95% CI −2.20; −0.83; p < 0.00001). Our analysis concluded that healthy children and teenagers should be encouraged to practice sports in order to improve their executive function at every stage of their development.
Background: Moderate-to-vigorous intensity exercise programs have proven to exert positive effects on the cognitive performance of older people. However, the specific effects sport-based exercise programs have on cognitive performance, upon executive functions, remain unclear. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to clarify the effects of sport-based exercise programs on executive functions in older adults, through a systematic review protocol of the scientific literature, with a meta-analysis. Methods: The search was performed in the Web of Science, PubMed, Scopus, and EBSCO electronic databases by combining keywords and different medical subject headings (MeSH) to identify and evaluate the relevant studies from inception up until June 2022. This study considers longitudinal studies with at least one experimental group and pre- and post-intervention measurements involving healthy older adults of 60 years of age or older. Studies have to consider one or more measures of executive function, including dimensions of working memory, inhibition, and cognitive flexibility, in order to meet the eligibility criteria for inclusion in this report. The Physiotherapy Evidence Database (PEDro) scale was used for methodological quality assessment studies. The DerSimonian and Laird random-effects model was used to compute the meta-analyses and report effect sizes (ES, i.e., Hedges’ g) with 95% confidence intervals (95% CIs), and a statistical significance set at p ≤ 0.05. The ES values were calculated for executive function globally and for each dimension of executive function (e.g., working memory, inhibition, cognitive flexibility) in the experimental and control/comparator groups using the mean and standard deviation values before and after the intervention period. Conclusions: Our systematic review aims to clarify the effects of sport-based exercise programs on executive functions in older adults. The results may help practitioners and stakeholders to provide better evidence-based decisions regarding sport-based exercise program implementation for older adults, and to help them to optimize cognitive functions during the aging process. Ethical permission is not required for this study. Systematic review registration: this systematic review is registered with the International Prospective Register of Systematic Reviews (PROSPERO; registration number: CRD42022284788).
There is a close relationship between the development of complex motor skills and executive functions during childhood. This study aimed to analyze the differences in different dimensions of executive functions in children practicing an open-skill sport (handball) and a closed-skill sport (athletics) and controls who did not participate in sports activities after a 12-week intervention period. School-aged male and female subjects (n = 90; mean ± standard deviation = 11.45 ± 0.68 years) participated in a non-randomized controlled study. Data analysis was performed using the STATA V.15 statistical software. The athletics intervention promoted semantic fluency (p = 0.007), whereas handball increased inhibition (p = 0.034). Additionally, physical activity improved in both intervention groups (p = < 0.001), whereas sprint performance improved in the handball group following intervention (p = 0.008), lower body muscular power improved in athletics (p = 0.04), and evidence of improvement in upper body muscular strength was noted in handball (p = 0.037). In turn, an increase in the Physical Activity Questionnaire for older Children score showed an association with the Standard Ten scores of executive functions. In conclusion, compared to controls, both athletics and handball induced meaningful improvements in physical activity and executive functions. However, sport-specific adaptations were noted after athletics (i.e., semantic fluency and lower body muscular power) and handball (i.e., inhibition, sprint, and upper-body muscular strength).
Executive function is among the most affected cognitive dimensions in depression. Physical exercise may improve executive function (e.g., working memory, inhibition, cognitive flexibility), although this is without consensus on adults with depression. Through this systematic review, we aim to elucidate the effects of physical exercise programs on executive functions in adults with depression. The literature search was performed in four relevant electronic databases, combining keywords and medical subject headings, from inception until September 2022. Controlled interventions, involving adults with depression, and reporting working memory, inhibition, and/or cognitive flexibility pre-post-intervention data, were considered includable. Results from meta-analyses included effect size (ES, i.e., Hedges’ g) values reported with 95% confidence intervals (95%CIs), with p set at ≤0.05. Seven studies were included, including 202 men and 457 women (age: 21.0–51.2 years; mild–moderate depression). For working memory, a small favoring effect was observed in the experimental groups compared with controls (ES = 0.33, 95%CI = 0.04–0.61; p = 0.026; I2 = 64.9%). For inhibition, physical exercise had a small favoring non-significant effect compared with controls (ES = 0.28, 95%CI = −0.17–0.74; p = 0.222; I2 = 72.4%). Compared with the control group, physical exercise had a trivial effect on cognitive flexibility (ES = 0.09, 95%CI = −0.21–0.39; p = 0.554; I2 = 68.4%). In conclusion, physical exercise interventions may improve working memory behavioral measures in adults with mild-to-moderate depression when compared with active and passive control conditions. However, the reduced number of available high-quality studies precludes more lucid conclusions.
Physical activity during childhood and adolescence favors brain development and cognitive functioning, particularly the executive functions. This study aimed to assess potential associations between anthropometric parameters, physical activity, physical fitness, and executive functions among elementary school children returning to school after the COVID-19 lockdown in Chile. School-age male and female participants (n = 90; age, 10–12 years) participated in the study. To determine the association between variables, a multivariable linear regression analysis was performed. Higher fat-related anthropometric indexes were associated with lower working memory, cognitive flexibility, planning, and attention (r = −0.55 to −0.22; p = 0.031 to <0.001). In contrast, higher physical activity levels, better sprint performance, higher lower-body muscular power, and greater upper-body muscular strength were associated with better working memory, cognitive flexibility, inhibition, planning, and/or attention (r = 0.19 to −0.54; p = 0.04 to <0.001). Current results consistently suggest the need for adequate levels of physical activity, physical fitness, and anthropometric parameters among the school-age population to promote healthy and adequate executive functions.
Exercise programs of moderate-to-vigorous intensity have been shown to improve the cognitive performance of older people. However, the specific effects of sports-based exercise programs on cognitive performance, particularly executive functions, remain unclear. Therefore, the purpose of this study is to clarify the effects of sports-based exercise programs on executive functions in older adults using a systematic review and meta-analysis of the scientific literature. A systematic review was conducted between 1 March and 1 July 2022, to look for published scientific evidence that analyzed different sports programs that may have affected executive function in healthy older adults. Longitudinal studies, which assessed the effects of sports interventions on healthy older adults, were identified through a systematic search of the four principal electronic databases: Web of Science, PubMed, Scopus, and EBSCO. A total of nine studies with a total of 398 subjects met the inclusion criteria and were classified based on one or more of the following categories: working memory, inhibition, and cognitive flexibility. The DerSimonian and Laird random-effects model was performed using the Comprehensive Meta-Analysis software to facilitate the analysis of the studies. Statistical significance was set at p ≤ 0.05. In terms of working memory, a small but positive significant effect was noted for the intervention group compared to the control group (effect size (ES) = 0.35, 95% confidence interval (CI) = 0.04–0.67; p = 0.029; I2 = 36.7%); in terms of inhibition, the intervention had a small favoring but no significant effect compared to the control group (ES = 0.20, 95% CI = −0.42–0.84; p = 0.517; I2 = 78.8%); and in terms of cognitive flexibility, the intervention had a small favoring but no significant effect compared to the control group (ES = 0.39, 95% CI = −0.11–0.89; p = 0.131; I2 = 75.5%). Our findings suggest that healthy older adults should be encouraged to participate in sports to improve their working memory; however, more studies are required in this area to reach more robust conclusions. This systematic review was registered with the International Prospective Register of Systematic Reviews (registration number: CRD42022284788).
Physical exercise is a low-cost and easy-to-implement therapeutic option proposed to reduce the negative effect of depression on the executive function cognitive dimension, including working memory, inhibition, and cognitive flexibility. Although a considerable amount of scientific literature on the topic is currently available, the effects of physical exercise interventions on the executive functions in adults with depression remain unclear. The aim of this review protocol is to synthesize the effects of physical exercise interventions on executive functions in adults with depression. Databases including Web of Science, PubMed, Scopus, and EBSCO will be searched for studies by combining keywords and different medical subject headings to identify and evaluate the relevant studies from inception up to September 2022. This study will consider longitudinal studies (duration, ≥3 weeks) with a minimum of one experimental group and pre- and post-intervention measurements involving adults with depression aged 18–65 years. Studies will be included if these reported ≥1 measures of executive function, including dimensions of working memory, inhibition, and cognitive flexibility. The Physiotherapy Evidence Database (PEDro) scale will be used to assess the methodological quality of studies. The DerSimonian and Laird random-effects model will be used for meta-analyses, with effect size (ES, i.e., Hedges’ g) values reported with 95% confidence intervals (95% CIs), and p ≤ 0.05 will indicate statistical significance. The ES values will be calculated for working memory, inhibition, and cognitive flexibility in the experimental and control groups before and after the intervention program. Our results can help professionals and stakeholders in making better evidence-based decisions regarding the implementation of physical exercise programs in adults with depression and providing relevant information to facilitate the functional performance of this population in complex daily tasks where executive functions are essential. No ethical approval is required for this study. PROSPERO registration number: CRD42022358339.
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