Effects of Childhood Gymnastics Program on Spatial Working Memory

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Abstract

Purpose

A growing body of evidence has demonstrated the positive effects of physical exercise on cognition in children, and recent studies have specifically investigated the cognitive benefits of exercises involving cognitive–motor interactions, such as gymnastics. This study examined the effect of 8 wk of gymnastics training on behavioral and neurophysiological measures of spatial working memory in children.

Methods

Forty-four children age 7 to 10 yr were recruited. The experimental group (n = 24; age, 8.7 ± 1.1 yr) was recruited from Yilan County in Taiwan, while the control group (n = 20; age, 8.6 ± 1.1 yr) resided in Taipei City. The experimental group undertook 8 wk of after-school gymnastics training (2 sessions per week, 90 min per session), whereas the control group received no intervention and were instructed to maintain their routine daily activities. Working memory was assessed by performance on a modified delayed match-to-sample test and by event-related potential including the P3 component. Data were collected before and after treatment for the experimental group and at the same time interval for the control group.

Results

Response accuracy improved after the experimental intervention regardless of working memory demands. Likewise, the P3 amplitude was larger at the parietal site after gymnastics training regardless of the task difficulty.

Conclusions

Our results suggest that a short period of gymnastics training had a general facilitative effect on spatial working memory at both behavioral and neurophysiological levels in children. These finding highlight the potential importance of exercise programs involving cognitive–motor interactions in stimulating development of spatial cognition during childhood.

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