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Effects of the enriched sports activities-program on executive functions in Italian children

  • Autori: Alesi M.; Giordano G.; Giaccone M.; Basile M.; Costa S.; Bianco A.
  • Anno di pubblicazione: 2020
  • Tipologia: Articolo in rivista
  • OA Link:


Physical activity (PA) during childhood plays an important role in brain development. This role is played in both the structural domain, prefrontal cortex area, and in the functional domain, involving the higher cognitive functions, including the executive functions (EF). Working memory (WM), inhibition, and switching as fundamental EF were investigated in an Italian children sample before and after four months of an Enriched Sports Activities-Program (ESA-Program). EFs were assessed at pre-test and post-test using, respectively, the digit span test, the color word Stroop test, and the trail making test derived from Millisecond Software. The Italian sample was composed of 141 children aged 8.54 years. The intervention group (IG) was composed of 61 children and the control group (CG) of 80 children. Significant differences in WM (p < 0.05) were found in the IG following the ESA-Program intervention. Children's performance improved both in forward digit span (FDS1 mean difference = 0.26; p = 0.04; FDS2 mean difference = 0.21; p = 0.01) and backward digit span (BDS2 mean difference = 0.14; p = 0.02). No significant improvements were observed for inhibition and switching processes (p > 0.05). Since this finding suggests that brain functioning is sensitive to lifestyle factors, such as PA, an essential goal for ESA-Program is to emphasize the importance of PA to enhance cognitive skills in childhood and prevent sedentary life.