Professor Kamijo and Professor Ishihara, and their colleagues re-analyzed the data from previous experiments in which executive function was assessed in children before and after several months of daily intervention with physical activity, such as aerobic activities, ball games, and playing tag. They looked at a factor that was missed in the initial analyses. That is, they considered whether the effectiveness of the intervention depended on the initial baseline scores.
The researchers found that cognitive skills, which have been shown to closely associate with academic performance, improved most in children whose skills were initially poor. The team also found that increased time spent doing regular physical activity did not negatively affect cognitive function in children who started out with better cognitive functions.
The finding that daily physical activity can improve executive function in children who might need it the most has some practical implications. “Because the cognitive functions evaluated in our study are related to academic performance,” says Professor Kamijo, “we can say that daily physical activity is critical for school-aged children. Our findings can help educational institutions design appropriate systems for maximizing the effects of physical activity and exercise.”