Aerobic capacity and cognitive control in elementary school-age children

Mark R. Scudder, Kate Lambourne, Eric S. Drollette, Stephen D. Herrmann, Richard A. Washburn, Joseph E. Donnelly, Charles H. Hillman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


PURPOSE: The current study examined the relationship between children's performance on the Progressive Aerobic Cardiovascular Endurance Run subtest of the FitnessGram® and aspects of cognitive control that are believed to support academic success. METHODS: Hierarchical linear regression analyses were conducted on a sample of second-and third-grade children (n = 397) who completed modified versions of a flanker task and spatial n-back task to assess inhibitory control and working memory, respectively. RESULTS: Greater aerobic fitness was significantly related to shorter reaction time and superior accuracy during the flanker task, suggesting better inhibitory control and the facilitation of attention in higher-fit children. A similar result was observed for the n-back task such that higher-fit children exhibited more accurate target detection and discrimination performance when working memory demands were increased. CONCLUSIONS: These findings support the positive association between aerobic fitness and multiple aspects of cognitive control in a large sample of children, using a widely implemented and reliable field estimate of aerobic capacity. Importantly, the current results suggest that this relationship is consistent across methods used to assess fitness, which may have important implications for extending this research to more representative samples of children in a variety of experimental contexts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1025-1035
Number of pages11
JournalMedicine and Science in Sports and Exercise
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2014


  • Pacer
  • academic achievement
  • aerobic fitness
  • inhibitory control
  • working memory

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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