Effects of Physical Activity on Motor Skills and Cognitive Development in Early Childhood: A Systematic Review.
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OBJECTIVE: This study synthesized literature concerning casual evidence of effects of various physical activity programs on motor skills and cognitive development in typically developed preschool children. METHODS: Electronic databases were searched through July 2017. Peer-reviewed randomized controlled trials (RCTs) examining the effectiveness of physical activity on motor skills and cognitive development in healthy young children (4-6 years) were screened. RESULTS: A total of 15 RCTs were included. Of the 10 studies assessing the effects of physical activity on motor skills, eight (80%) reported significant improvements in motor performance and one observed mixed findings, but one failed to promote any beneficial outcomes. Of the five studies investigating the influence of physical activity on cognitive development, four (80%) showed significant and positive changes in language learning, academic achievement, attention, and working memory. Notably, one indicated no significant improvements were observed after the intervention. CONCLUSIONS: Findings support causal evidence of effects of physical activity on both motor skills and cognitive development in preschool children. Given the shortage of available studies, future research with large representative samples is warranted to explore the relationships between physical activity and cognitive domains as well as strengthen and confirm the dose-response evidence in early childhood.