I.An introduction to the relation of physical activity to cognitive and brain health, and scholastic achievement

Charles H. Hillman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The current pandemic of physical inactivity threatens both physical and cognitive health throughout the lifespan. This monograph describes the multidisciplinary study of aspects of childhood health and its relationship to cognitive and brain function, and scholastic performance. Specifically, we focus on physical activity and physical fitness along with nutrition and obesity; interconnected aspects of health that have declined over the past 30 years in children of industrialized nations. Although much emphasis has been placed on correcting physical aspects of these public health concerns, it is only more recently that attention has been paid to the relation between physical health and cognitive health among school age children. The monograph begins with an overview of current behavioral trends that compete with physical activity engagement and contribute to the failure to achieve the public health recommendations for physical activity among children in the United States. Following the epidemiological overview, the relation of childhood fitness to brain structure and function is examined among children with varying fitness levels. The observed dissimilarities between higher- and lower-fit children are discussed within the context of typical brain development. To broaden the scope of research presented herein, the relation of nutrient intake-among both undernourished and well-nourished children-and obesity on cognition and brain are discussed. Next, novel empirical data are presented from a correlational study that indicates a differential relation between childhood fitness and adiposity on various aspects of cognition. In an effort to provide a more comprehensive review, a later chapter is dedicated to describing a small body of literature investigating the relation of physical activity to special populations of children, including those with learning disorders. In doing so, practical applications as well as challenges and limitations of implementing physical activity into the lives of children with learning disabilities are described. Finally, a detailed review and historical analysis of the relation of physical activity to scholastic performance is provided. This translational chapter provides an important application of the laboratory findings to a real world setting in which children rely upon attention, memory, and learning for scholastic success. Accordingly, this monograph is directed toward timely and important public health issues related to chronic disease prevention as a function of childhood inactivity and obesity with the goal of linking health behaviors to cognitive and brain health, and scholastic performance.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-6
Number of pages6
JournalMonographs of the Society for Research in Child Development
Issue number4
StatePublished - Dec 1 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology


Dive into the research topics of 'I.An introduction to the relation of physical activity to cognitive and brain health, and scholastic achievement'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this