22 Sep 2023 World leisure: news, training & property
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Health Club Management
2023 issue 2

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Leisure Management - High achievers


High achievers

A strong link has been found between exercise and higher academic achievement in teenage girls

The study found a link between physical activity and attentional control Photo: Shutterstock/Comeback Images

A study from the University of Illinois has found that when teenage girls (age 15-18) take part in more moderate and vigorous physical activity each day they have better attentional control – which can, in turn, positively impact academic outcomes.

Those engaging in less physical activity were slower and less accurate in terms of attentional control.

Data shows that more than 80 per cent of adolescents aged 11-17 don’t meet physical activity guidelines. The study’s co-authors say there’s growing evidence to suggest that low levels of physical activity can adversely impact cognitive and brain health in youth, so the aim was to examine the associations between accelerometer-measured physical activity intensity, physical activity volume, attentional control and working memory in participants aged 15-18 years old.

Understanding the importance of attention
Dominika Pindus, the kinesiology and community health professor at the university, led the study – which was supported by the National Health and Medical Research Council of Australia – and the findings were published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports.

“Attentional control is an aspect of inhibitory control – we can think of inhibitory control as our ability to control attention when distracted, and our ability to control acting on an impulse,” said Pindus. “Studies have found that inhibitory control is related to better academic achievement.”

Pindus used baseline data from a trial of high school students in Australia. Overall, 418 participated in the study to provide accelerometer and cognitive data, of which 211 were female. They wore GT9X Link accelerometers on a non-dominant wrist for seven days, which recorded changes in acceleration. “We get a continuous signal of the intensity of movement,” said Pindus.

The participants also engaged in computerised cognitive tasks that recorded response times across various trials. “This measure helps us understand the efficiency of higher attentional control,” she said.

Maintaining attention in the face of distractions
Physical activity over time was measured using an ‘intensity gradient’, which corresponded with the girls’ ability to maintain their attention on a task in the face of distracting information during cognitive trials.

Those recording less intense physical activity over the course of the day spent longer on the cognitive tests and were less accurate.

“It tells us that we may need to focus on intervention strategies that engage girls who are the least physically active in high-intensity physical activity to enhance cognitive functions important for academic achievement,” said Pindus.

More: www.hcmmag.com/teen

Originally published in Health Club Management 2023 issue 2

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