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Open Access Research article

Relationship of aerobic fitness and motor skills with memory and attention in preschoolers (Ballabeina): A cross-sectional and longitudinal study

Iris Niederer1*, Susi Kriemler2, Janine Gut3, Tim Hartmann1, Christian Schindler2, Jérôme Barral4 and Jardena J Puder5

Author Affiliations

1 Institute of Exercise and Health Sciences, University of Basel, Birsstrasse 320b, 4052 Basel, Switzerland

2 Swiss Tropical and Public Health Institute, University of Basel, Socinstrasse 57, 4002 Basel, Switzerland

3 Institute of Psychology Basel, University of Basel, Socinstrasse 57, 4002 Basel, Switzerland

4 Institute of Sport Sciences, University of Lausanne, Bâtiments administratifs de Vidy, Route de Chavannes 33, 1015 Lausanne, Switzerland

5 Service of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism, University of Lausanne, Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois, Rue du Bugnon 46, 1011 Lausanne, Switzerland

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BMC Pediatrics 2011, 11:34  doi:10.1186/1471-2431-11-34

Published: 11 May 2011

Abstract

Background

The debate about a possible relationship between aerobic fitness and motor skills with cognitive development in children has recently re-emerged, because of the decrease in children's aerobic fitness and the concomitant pressure of schools to enhance cognitive performance. As the literature in young children is scarce, we examined the cross-sectional and longitudinal relationship of aerobic fitness and motor skills with spatial working memory and attention in preschool children.

Methods

Data from 245 ethnically diverse preschool children (mean age: 5.2 (0.6) years, girls: 49.4%) analyzed at baseline and 9 months later. Assessments included aerobic fitness (20 m shuttle run) and motor skills with agility (obstacle course) and dynamic balance (balance beam). Cognitive parameters included spatial working memory (IDS) and attention (KHV-VK). All analyses were adjusted for age, sex, BMI, migration status, parental education, native language and linguistic region. Longitudinal analyses were additionally adjusted for the respective baseline value.

Results

In the cross-sectional analysis, aerobic fitness was associated with better attention (r = 0.16, p = 0.03). A shorter time in the agility test was independently associated with a better performance both in working memory (r = -0.17, p = 0.01) and in attention (r = -0.20, p = 0.01). In the longitudinal analyses, baseline aerobic fitness was independently related to improvements in attention (r = 0.16, p = 0.03), while baseline dynamic balance was associated with improvements in working memory (r = 0.15, p = 0.04).

Conclusions

In young children, higher baseline aerobic fitness and motor skills were related to a better spatial working memory and/or attention at baseline, and to some extent also to their future improvements over the following 9 months.

Trial Registration

clinicaltrials.gov NCT00674544