Congratulations to several HALOites, with leadership from Dr. Katie Gunnell, on the publication of the paper “Physical activity and brain structure, brain function, and cognition in children and youth: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials,” just fully published in Mental Health and Physical Activity.
This review helped inform the Expert Statement on Physical Activity and Brain Health included in the 2018 ParticipACTION Report Card on Physical Activity for Children and Youth. In summary the paper showed that physical activity is unlikely to harm brain health in children and youth and may confer some benefits. More research is needed to examine the relationship between physical activity and brain structure and function.
Citation details and the paper abstract are below.
Katie E. Gunnell, Veronica J. Poitras, Allana LeBlanc, Kylie Schibli, Kheana Barbeau, Nina Hedayati, Matthew B. Ponitfex, Gary S. Goldfield, Charlotte Dunlap, Emily Lehan, Mark S. Tremblay. Physical activity and brain structure, brain function, and cognition in children and youth: A systematic review of randomized controlled trials. Mental Health and Physical Activity, Volume 16, 2019, Pages 105-127.
Background. Previous reviews show a favourable relationship between physical activity (PA) and brain health in children and youth. The purpose of this systematic review was to extend the generalizability of previous findings using only studies that employed randomized controlled designs in a wider age range. Methods. After registration in PROSPERO, PRISMA guidelines were followed. Studies must have used a randomized controlled design; manipulated PA once (i.e., acute) or more (i.e., chronic) in apparently healthy children (1 month-17.99 years); and examined cognitive function, brain function, or brain structure as outcomes. Articles were reviewed for inclusion and data extraction were performed in duplicate. Results. Overall, 84 studies from 83 papers with 12,600 unique participants were included (nrange = 10–1,224, Mrange = 0.77–17 years). Studies were mostly rated as low risk of bias. The majority of studies (n = 52) reported at least one favourable cognitive function outcome associated with a PA intervention. Few studies (n = 6) reported an unfavourable outcome. Examining the multiple cognitive function outcomes within each study, PA had mostly no effect (nacute = 29, nchronic = 47) or a mix of favourable and no effects (nacute = 20, nchronic = 27). For brain function, acute PA was associated with no change (n = 2) whereas chronic PA was associated with a mix of increases, decreases, or no change (n = 3). For brain structure, two overlapping studies found either favourable or no effects of chronic PA. Discussion. PA is unlikely to harm brain health in children and youth and may confer some benefits. More research is needed to examine the relationship between PA and brain structure and function.
Click here to read the paper for free.