Associations of Physical Performance and Adiposity with Cognition in Children

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2015 Oct;47(10):2166-74. doi: 10.1249/MSS.0000000000000652.


Objectives: To investigate the independent and combined associations of cardiorespiratory performance (CP), neuromuscular performance (NP; including motor performance [MP]) and body fat percentage (BF%) with cognition in children.

Methods: The participants were 202 boys and 201 girls age 6-8 yr. Cardiorespiratory performance was assessed using maximal cycle ergometer test and was expressed as maximal workload per lean body mass. Neuromuscular performance score included muscle strength, speed, agility, balance, manual dexterity, and flexibility; and MP included speed and agility, balance, and manual dexterity. Body fat percentage was assessed by dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry. Cognition was assessed using Raven Coloured Progressive Matrices (CPM). Linear regression and general linear models were used to analyze the independent and combined associations of CP, NP, MP, and BF% with Raven CPM score.

Results: Neuromuscular performance and MP were directly associated with the Raven CPM score (β = 0.138-0.190; P < 0.01). Children in the lowest or the highest thirds of BF% and in the lowest third of MP had a lower Raven CPM score than other children (P < 0.05). Children in the lowest or highest third of BF% along with the poorest MP had a lower Raven CPM score than those in the middle third of BF% and higher MP (P < 0.05). These associations and differences were much stronger in boys than in girls. Cardiorespiratory performance was not related to the Raven CPM score.

Conclusions: Poorer NP and MP were associated with a worse cognition in children and particularly in boys. Cognition was poorer especially among children with the lowest or highest BF% accompanied with a poorer MP.

Trial registration: NCT01803776.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adiposity / physiology*
  • Cardiovascular Physiological Phenomena*
  • Child
  • Cognition / physiology*
  • Exercise Test
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Motor Skills / physiology*
  • Muscle Strength
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiology
  • Respiratory Physiological Phenomena*

Associated data