Research published in Frontiers in Psychology looks at the effects of a nine-week programme of daily exercise on children’s cognitive performance, aerobic fitness and physical activity levels.
den Berg and colleagues conducted a cluster randomised controlled trial in 21
classes in eight Dutch primary schools. A total of 512 children aged 9 to 12
participated. The intervention consisted of daily classroom-based exercise
breaks of moderate to vigorous intensity. Each break lasted approximately ten minutes,
and children were asked to mimic dance moves from a video. Children in the control
group watched 10- to 15-minute information and educational videos related to
the body, exercise and sports.
after the intervention, children were asked to perform four cognitive tasks to
measure their cognitive performance in selective attention, inhibition and
memory retrieval. Children’s aerobic fitness was measured with a shuttle run
test, and accelerometers were used to measure physical activity throughout the
At the end of the nine weeks, the exercise intervention had no effect on children’s cognitive performance or aerobic fitness. Children in the intervention group spent 2.9 minutes more of the school day involved in moderate to vigorous physical activity compared to the children in the control group. The study concludes that daily exercise breaks can be implemented in the classroom in order to promote physical activity during school time, but don’t improve children’s cognitive performance.
Source: Improving cognitive performance of 9-12 years
old children: Just Dance? A randomized controlled trial (February 2019), Frontiers in Psychology 10:174
This Campbell systematic review examines the effectiveness of mindfulness-based interventions (MBIs) implemented in school settings on cognition, behaviour, socio-emotional outcomes and academic achievement. MBIs are interventions that use a mindfulness component, broadly defined as “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally”, and is often combined with yoga, cognitive-behavioural strategies, or relaxation-skills training.
A total of 61 studies are included in the review, but only the 35 randomised or quasi-experimental studies are used in the meta-analysis, with a total of 6,207 pupil participants. Most of the studies were carried out in schools in the US (74%), with some in Asia (5%), Europe (16%) and Canada (5%). The interventions ranged in duration (4–28 weeks), number of sessions (6–125 sessions) and frequency of meetings (once every two weeks to five times a week).
The findings show that MBIs in schools have a small positive effect on cognitive outcomes and socio-emotional outcomes, but do not improve behaviour or academic achievement. There was little heterogeneity for all outcomes, apart from behavioural outcomes, suggesting that the interventions produced similar results across studies on cognitive, socio-emotional and academic outcomes, despite the interventions being quite diverse. Overall, Brandy Maynard and colleagues find a lack of support at post-test to indicate that the positive effects on cognitive and socio-emotional outcomes then translate into positive outcomes on behaviour and academic achievement.
Source: Mindfulness-based interventions for improving cognition, academic achievement, behavior, and socioemotional functioning of primary and secondary school students (March 2017), A Campbell Systematic Review 2017:5
A new study investigates the impact of childcare from birth to 51 months on children’s cognitive development at 51 months.
Published in the International Journal of Behavioral Development, it used data from the Families, Children and Child Care study, which recorded the details of 978 children in London and Oxfordshire. Information on family demographics, the home environment, and duration and quality of childcare were captured at various time points. Cognitive ability at 51 months was measured using the British Ability Scales, which measures verbal ability (eg, verbal comprehension and naming vocabulary) and non-verbal ability (eg, pattern construction and picture similarities).
Group-based care was beneficial for cognitive development and non-verbal ability (but not verbal ability) before school entry. Home-based care, whether by paid or unpaid carers, relatives or non-relatives, had relatively little impact. The quality of group-based care had only marginal positive effects, although the sample size for this part of the study was small.
Unusually, the participants in the study included a substantial number of advantaged families. Professional families and mothers with university degrees were both associated with higher cognitive scores, but even taking those factors into account there was still a small but significant added value of group-based childcare.
Source: Amount and Timing of Group-Based Childcare from Birth and Cognitive Development at 51 Months (2016), International Journal of Behavioral Development.