Plain English Summary
Background and study aims
Recent studies have shown that in addition to physical and mental health benefits, participation in PA can improve cognitive functioning as well as scholastic performance. Cognitive functions, such as attention, concentration, processing speed and working memory have been shown to improve after single exercise sessions. Above-mentioned cognitive functions are important for learning and classroom behaviour, contributing to scholastic performance. Therefore, conducting exercise sessions in the school setting may yield immediate positive effects for academic learning.
Although there is emerging evidence of positive effects of acute exercise on cognition (e.g. attention, information processing speed, working memory), the characteristics of exercise needed to optimally improve cognitive functioning in children remain largely unknown. For example, little is known regarding the optimal type of acute exercise that benefits cognition most. In this study we will examine the acute effects of three types of exercise on selective attention and information processing speed in children (10-13 years). In addition, we examine the feasibility of conducting 12-minute exercise sessions in the classroom.
Who can participate?
All students in 5th and 6th grade (age 10-13 years).
What does the study involve?
All children participate in 2 experimental days: one exercise day and one control day and therefore acting as their own control. Each class is randomly allocated into one of three exercise sessions (i.e. aerobic, coordination, strength exercises). All exercise sessions take 12 minutes to complete. During each exercise session, a movie clip is shown to all the students in the class. All children are asked to follow and imitate the instructor in the movie, while standing behind their desk. During the control session, students are seated for 12 minutes and listen to an educational lesson about exercise and movement. Before and after the exercise and control session, students are asked to complete two cognitive tasks that measured selective attention and information processing speed.
What are the possible benefits and risks of participating?
There is very little risk to participating in this study. The intensity, duration and content of the exercise sessions are comparable with students physical education lessons and their movement behavior during school-breaks.
Where is the study run from?
Department of Public and Occupational Health, VU University Medical Centre, Amsterdam (Netherlands)
When is the study starting and how long is it expected to run for?
January 2014 to June 2014
Who is funding the study?
NWO (Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research)
Who is the main contact?
Dr Amika Singh
Dr Amika Singh
van der Boechorststraat 7
+31 20 4448382
WC2014-020; METc VUmc 2014.363
Acute effects of three types of physical exercise on cognitive performance of children aged 10-13 years: a randomized cross over trial
Our aim is to examine:
1. The acute effects of 12 minute exercise sessions on selective attention and information processing speed
2. Moderating effects of exercise type, i.e. aerobic, coordination or strength exercise sessions
Hypothesis: we hypothesize to find similar acute effects of different types of exercise on measures of information processing speed and selective attention in 10-13 year olds
Ethics Committee of the Faculty of Human Movement Science, VU University Amsterdam [2014-19] (The Netherlands)
Experiment; double baseline, within-between subjects design
(within: exercise, control condition, pre- and post-test; between: exercise type)
Primary study design
Secondary study design
Randomised cross over trial
Patient information sheet
Not available in web format, please use contact details to request a participant information sheet
Physical exercise and cognitive performance
Students participated in one of three exercise sessions (12 minutes in duration)
1. Aerobic exercises; well-known, easy and repetitive movements
2. Coordination exercises; more complex movements that stressed coordinative skills
3. Strength exercises; body-weight exercises
In the control condition, students were seated during 12 minutes and listened to an educational lesson about exercise and movement
Primary outcome measure
1. Selective attention (d2 Test of Attention)
2. Information processing speed (Letter Digit Substitution Test)
The cognitive tests were administered four times: before the exercise session (pre-test), after the exercise session (post-test), before the control session (pre-test), after the control session (post-test)
Secondary outcome measures
Heart rate was measured during the exercise sessions (Polar heart rate monitor) in order to determine the exercise intensity.
Overall trial start date
Overall trial end date
Reason abandoned (if study stopped)
Participant inclusion criteria
All children in 5th and/or 6th grade (10-13 years old) in the selected schools were eligible to participate.
Target number of participants
Participant exclusion criteria
Parents/legal guardians could withdraw their child from the study by signing and returing the objection form. These children were excluded from the study.
Recruitment start date
Recruitment end date
Countries of recruitment
Trial participating centre
VU University Medical Center
van der Boechorststraat 7 1081 BT Amsterdam
EMGO Institute for Health and Care Research
VU University Medical Center
Van der Boechorststraat 7
+31 20 4448382
Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek
Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research, Dutch National Scientific Foundation, Dutch National Science Foundation, NWO
Funding Body Type
Funding Body Subtype
Results and Publications
Publication and dissemination plan
To be confirmed at a later date.
Intention to publish date
Participant level data
Basic results (scientific)
1. 2016 results in https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27242629 (added 24/01/2019)