Study Links Exercise Intensity, Attentional Control in Late-Adolescent Girls

The following is excerpted from an online article posted by NewsWise.

Adolescent girls who engage in more moderate and vigorous physical activity each day have better attentional control, a new study finds. The study focused on girls and boys aged 15-18.

“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 University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign kinesiology and community health professor Dominika Pindus, who led the study. “Studies have found that inhibitory control is related to better academic achievement.”

Pindus and her colleagues used baseline data from a randomized controlled trial of high school students in New South Wales, Australia, to explore potential sex differences in the relationship between physical activity and cognition. Study co-author David Lubans of the University of Newcastle in NSW led the original study. The data collected in that research included measures of daily physical activity volume and intensity as recorded by accelerometers worn on the wrist for up to seven days.

The participants also engaged in computerized cognitive tasks. “For this study, we focused on the variability of participants’ response times across trials. This measure helps us understand the efficiency of higher attentional control,” Pindus said.

Older adolescents’ accuracy and speed are comparable to adults’ performance on the attentional control tasks, Pindus said.

The researchers evaluated the intensity of the students’ physical activity over time using a measure called an “intensity gradient,” which offers a broad picture of how each individual accumulates intense activity over the course of the day, Pindus said.

After controlling for other variables like body mass index and aerobic fitness, the team found that the intensity gradient corresponded with the girls’ ability to maintain their attention on a task in the face of distracting information in the cognitive trials. The girls who accumulated less intense physical activity over the course of the day took longer and were less accurate on tests that involved ignoring distracting information, the researchers report.

The findings are detailed in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports.

Source: NewWise

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[reposted by] Jim Liebelt

Jim is Senior Writer, Editor and Researcher for HomeWord. Jim has 40 years of experience as a youth and family ministry specialist, having served over the years as a pastor, author, consultant, mentor, trainer, college instructor, and speaker. Jim’s HomeWord culture blog also appears on and Jim and his wife Jenny live in Quincy, MA.

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