Cognitive and physiological effects of an acute physical activity intervention in elementary school children

Jäger, Katja; Schmidt, Mirko; Conzelmann, Achim; Roebers, Claudia M. (2014). Cognitive and physiological effects of an acute physical activity intervention in elementary school children. Frontiers in psychology, 5(1473) Frontiers Research Foundation 10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01473

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The aim of the present study was to investigate the effects of an acute physical activity intervention that included cognitive engagement on executive functions and on cortisol level in young elementary school children. Half of the 104 participating children (6–8 years old) attended a 20-min sport sequence, which included cognitively engaging and playful forms of physical activity. The other half was assigned to a resting control condition. Individual differences in children's updating, inhibition, and shifting performance as well as salivary cortisol were assessed before (pre-test), immediately after (post-test), and 40 min after (follow-up) the intervention or control condition, respectively. Results revealed a significantly stronger improvement in inhibition in the experimental group compared to the control group, while it appeared that acute physical activity had no specific effect on updating and shifting. The intervention effect on inhibition leveled out 40 min after physical activity. Salivary cortisol increased significantly more in the experimental compared to the control group between post-test and follow-up and results support partly the assumed inverted U-shaped relationship between cortisol level and cognitive performance. In conclusion, results indicate that acute physical activity that includes cognitive engagement may have immediate positive effects on inhibition, but not necessarily on updating and shifting in elementary school children. This positive effect may partly be explained through cortisol elevation after acute physical activity.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)


07 Faculty of Human Sciences > Institute of Psychology > Developmental Psychology
07 Faculty of Human Sciences > Institute of Sport Science (ISPW)

UniBE Contributor:

Jäger, Katja, Schmidt, Mirko, Conzelmann, Achim, Roebers, Claudia


100 Philosophy > 150 Psychology
700 Arts > 790 Sports, games & entertainment




Frontiers Research Foundation




Jeannine Sebel

Date Deposited:

20 Jan 2015 14:38

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 14:39

Publisher DOI:


Uncontrolled Keywords:

cognition, executive functions, acute exercise, intervention, salivary cortisol




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