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Special Issue "Cognition: Determinant of Physical Activity, or Outcome of Environments Conducive to Physical Activity?"

A special issue of International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health (ISSN 1660-4601). This special issue belongs to the section "Health Behavior, Chronic Disease and Health Promotion".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (15 April 2019)

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Prof. Caterina Pesce

Department of Movement, Human and Health Sciences, University of Rome "Foro Italico", 00135 Rome, Italy
Website | E-Mail
Interests: multicomponent and dual task training in aging; implementation of holistic physical activity interventions

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

As you are aware, publications on the relationship between physical activity and cognition has experienced an exponential growth in the last few years. This evidence-base is contributing to policy makers’ awareness of the public health relevance of the physical activity–cognition relationship. After decades of research into the nuances of this relationship, it is time to broaden the focus and bring together aspects that may facilitate transitioning evidence into policy.

This Special Issue of the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, “Cognition: Determinant of Physical Activity, or Outcome of Environments Conducive to Physical Activity?” offers an opportunity to publish high-quality multi-disciplinary research, review or theoretical note that may further our understanding of the bi-directional relationship between physical activity and cognition. While the bi-directionality is not new, the novel approach that we propose is to bring together contributions on the two sides of the coin that are actually attracting attention from different perspectives. On the one side in Europe, there is renewed attention to multilevel physical activity determinants, also with a focus on the psychological level (e.g., http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0182709). On the other side, international experts in exercise and cognition have highlighted research priorities including the identification of the physical activity characteristics leading to cognitive benefits and the underlying mechanisms (e.g., the outcomes of a Delphi process in press in BJSM).

This Special Issue of the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health provides an optimal venue to bring together contributions on cognitive determinants of physical activity and environmental conditions of physical activity that impact cognition, which represent a still under-investigated aspect of physical activity in relation to cognition.

Thus, we would welcome submissions on cognitive determinants of physical activity and on environmental conditions which, being conducive to quantitative or qualitative enhancement of physical activity, may impact cognition. Cognitive determinants of physical activity, broadly conceived include, but are not limited to cognition, metacognition, self-regulation, cognitive life skills and other socio-cognitive constructs.  Environmental conditions conducive to physical activity that impact cognition include, but are not limited to characteristics of the natural, social and built environment, as well as characteristics of the physical and social environment in designed physical activity interventions.

Prof. Caterina Pesce
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1800 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • physical activity
  • exercise
  • cognition
  • self-regulation
  • life skills
  • natural environment
  • built environment
  • social environment

Published Papers (9 papers)

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Research

Jump to: Review

Open AccessArticle
Environmental Correlates of Motor Competence in Children—The Skilled Kids Study
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16(11), 1989; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16111989
Received: 13 April 2019 / Revised: 28 May 2019 / Accepted: 31 May 2019 / Published: 4 June 2019
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Abstract
Environment, physical activity (PA) and motor development are tightly interwoven during childhood. We examined the associations of environmental factors with motor competence (MC) in children. Children (N = 945, 50.1% boys, age = 3–7 years, mean = 5.4 years) from 37 childcare [...] Read more.
Environment, physical activity (PA) and motor development are tightly interwoven during childhood. We examined the associations of environmental factors with motor competence (MC) in children. Children (N = 945, 50.1% boys, age = 3–7 years, mean = 5.4 years) from 37 childcare centres in the Southern (n = 17), Central (n = 13) and Northern Finland (n = 7) participated. The environmental factors comprised the geographical location (Southern, Central and Northern Finland) and residential density (metropolitan area, city, rural area and countryside) of the childcare centres’ based on postal codes and the national population density registry. MC was measured using the Test of Gross Motor Development (TGMD)-3, as well as by quantifying time spent outdoors and participation in organised sports via parental questionnaire. It was found that children from the countryside had better MC and spent most time outdoors, while children from the metropolitan area most frequently engaged in organised sports. Gender comparisons revealed that girls outperformed boys in locomotor skills, while boys were better in object control skills, had higher TGMD-3 score and spent more time outdoors. Time spent outdoors and participation in organised sports were associated positively with MC, but not in children from the countryside. In conclusion, higher population density was associated with lower MC and less time spent outdoors. The findings suggest that versatile outdoor environments may support motor development through PA. Full article
Open AccessArticle
How Older Adults Cope with Cognitive Complexity and Environmental Constraints during Dual-Task Walking: The Role of Executive Function Involvement
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16(10), 1835; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16101835
Received: 9 April 2019 / Revised: 20 May 2019 / Accepted: 21 May 2019 / Published: 23 May 2019
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Abstract
This cross-sectional study investigated the interactive dual-task (DT) effects of executive function demands and environmental constraints on older adults’ walking and the moderating role of habitual physical activity (PA). Locomotor performance under different environmental constraints (flat versus obstructed walking) and cognitive performance with [...] Read more.
This cross-sectional study investigated the interactive dual-task (DT) effects of executive function demands and environmental constraints on older adults’ walking and the moderating role of habitual physical activity (PA). Locomotor performance under different environmental constraints (flat versus obstructed walking) and cognitive performance with different executive function involvement (backward counting versus random number generation) were assessed under single-task (ST) and DT conditions in 135 participants (mean age 68.1 ± 8.4). The weekly number of daily steps was measured. Reciprocal DT effects of walking on cognitive performance and of the cognitive task on gait performance were computed and submitted to analyses of covariance with age, PA level, and cognitive functioning as covariates, followed by linear regressions with PA level as predictor. Cognitive task demands and environmental constraints individually and jointly affected gait variability (p = 0.033, ηp2 = 0.08) and executive function performance (p = 0.009, ηp2 = 0.09). Physical activity level predicted a low but significant percentage of variance of DT effects on gait only in flat walking (R2 = 0.04, p = 0.027). Results suggest that older individuals may adopt variable task prioritization in dual tasking depending on the type of executive function involvement and the environmental constraints on walking. Their DT ability was slightly affected by habitual PA. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Physical Education Pedagogies Built upon Theories of Movement Learning: How Can Environmental Constraints Be Manipulated to Improve Children’s Executive Function and Self-Regulation Skills?
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16(9), 1630; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16091630
Received: 16 April 2019 / Revised: 6 May 2019 / Accepted: 7 May 2019 / Published: 10 May 2019
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Abstract
Physical education in schools has been marginalised across the globe, and as a result, children are missing out on opportunities to develop and acquire the foundation skills needed to lead a physically active life. The squeeze on physical education in schools, particularly in [...] Read more.
Physical education in schools has been marginalised across the globe, and as a result, children are missing out on opportunities to develop and acquire the foundation skills needed to lead a physically active life. The squeeze on physical education in schools, particularly in some western countries (United Kingdom, Australia and America), has been justified on the grounds that core subjects such as English and mathematics need more curriculum time, as this will lead to higher cognitive and academic performance. The aim of this paper is to highlight how physical education lessons in early childhood, underpinned by either of two major theories of motor learning, can support teachers in the creation of learning environments, as well as guide their pedagogical practice to facilitate children’s development of key cognitive skills, in particular executive function and self-regulation skills. These skills are crucial for learning and development and have been found to be a higher predictor of academic achievement than IQ. They also enable positive behaviour and allow us to make healthy choices for ourselves and others, therefore providing further evidence that the development of movement skills has the potential to secure positive attitudes and outcomes towards physical activity across the lifespan. Full article
Open AccessArticle
Associations of Class-Time Sitting, Stepping and Sit-to-Stand Transitions with Cognitive Functions and Brain Activity in Children
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16(9), 1482; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16091482
Received: 8 March 2019 / Revised: 18 April 2019 / Accepted: 19 April 2019 / Published: 26 April 2019
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Abstract
Previous research showed that children’s physical activity is positively related to executive functions, whilst screen time shows negative associations. However, it is unclear how school-based sitting time and transitions from sitting to standing relate to cognition. We investigated the relationship between class time [...] Read more.
Previous research showed that children’s physical activity is positively related to executive functions, whilst screen time shows negative associations. However, it is unclear how school-based sitting time and transitions from sitting to standing relate to cognition. We investigated the relationship between class time sitting/stepping/sit-to-stand transitions and cognitive functions in Grade 1–2 children. Overall, 149 children (7.7 ± 0.6 years old, 54% boys) participated. Measures included class time sitting/stepping/sit-to-stand transitions and: (i) response inhibition (i.e., response time and accuracy); (ii) lapses of attention; (iii) working memory; and (iv) brain activity (cortical haemodynamic response). Linear mixed-models, adjusting for age, sex, and clustering at the classroom level, found that more sitting time was associated with higher lapses of attention (β = 0.12, p < 0.05). Children who stepped more had quicker inhibition response time (β = −0.95, p < 0.01); however, they were less accurate in their responses (β = −0.30, p < 0.05) and this was also observed with sit-to-stand transitions (β = −0.26, p < 0.05). No associations were found with brain activity. In conclusion, reducing and breaking up sitting may help keep children focused, but the evidence regarding response inhibition is unclear. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Beyond Broadway: Analysis of Qualitative Characteristics of and Individual Responses to Creatively Able, a Music and Movement Intervention for Children with Autism
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16(8), 1377; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16081377
Received: 13 March 2019 / Revised: 12 April 2019 / Accepted: 15 April 2019 / Published: 17 April 2019
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Abstract
Movement in response to music represents one of the natural social environments in which physical activity occurs. The study of music and movement, including dance, requires a careful, holistic consideration of many features, which may include music, physical activity, motor learning, social engagement, [...] Read more.
Movement in response to music represents one of the natural social environments in which physical activity occurs. The study of music and movement, including dance, requires a careful, holistic consideration of many features, which may include music, physical activity, motor learning, social engagement, emotion, and creativity. The overarching goal of this manuscript is to examine qualitative characteristics of and individual responses to a music and movement intervention (Creatively Able) for children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). We provide a description of Creatively Able, illustrating how the program design and physical and social environment were informed by children’s needs and preferences in order to provide an enriched environment in which to promote multiple systems in children with ASD. Using data from two pilot studies with 20 children with ASD, we illustrate how researchers can use observational research methods to measure important aspects of the social environment (e.g., children’s engagement during intervention sessions) as well as engagement of potential underlying behavioral mechanisms (e.g., self-regulation) that might reduce clinical symptoms. We further illustrate how individual responses to intervention (e.g., improvements in behaviors or symptoms) can be studied in physically active interventions. Our pilot study results showed group-level reductions in Stereotyped and Compulsive behaviors of 8% and 4%, respectively; posthoc analysis revealed that there were substantial individual differences in children’s responses to the intervention. This research illustrates robust methods that can be applied to intervention research to improve our understanding of important features of interventions that might help promote development in various domains, including executive functions and self-regulation. Full article
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Open AccessArticle
Cognitive and Sensory Dimensions of Older People’s Preferences of Outdoor Spaces for Walking: A Survey Study in Ireland
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16(8), 1340; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16081340
Received: 25 February 2019 / Revised: 9 April 2019 / Accepted: 12 April 2019 / Published: 14 April 2019
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Abstract
Background: Physical exercise, particularly walking, benefits healthy ageing. Understanding the environmental circumstances in which exercise occurs is crucial to the promotion of physical activity in older age. Most studies have focused on the structural dimensions of environments that may foster walking; however, individual [...] Read more.
Background: Physical exercise, particularly walking, benefits healthy ageing. Understanding the environmental circumstances in which exercise occurs is crucial to the promotion of physical activity in older age. Most studies have focused on the structural dimensions of environments that may foster walking; however, individual differences in how older people perceive and interact with outdoor spaces need further attention. This study explored the cognitive and sensory dimensions of preferences of outdoor spaces for walking. Methods: We invited 112 healthy community-dwelling people aged ≥60 years to complete a survey to test associations between walking preferences and cognitive/sensory vulnerability. A subsample also completed focus groups/walk along interviews to explore qualitatively the cognitive/sensory reasons for outdoor walking preferences. Results: While most participants indicated a preference for outdoor spaces that offer variety and greenery, we observed a complex association between individual cognitive/sensory needs (stimulation seeking vs. avoidance), preferences for social interactions, and the place of residence urbanity level. Furthermore, walking preferences varied based on the purpose of the walk (recreation vs. transportation). Conclusions: Our findings support an ecological approach to understanding determinants of physical activity in older age, which consider the interaction between individual cognitive processing and the environment. Full article
Open AccessArticle
Severe Hypoxia Does Not Offset the Benefits of Exercise on Cognitive Function in Sedentary Young Women
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16(6), 1003; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16061003
Received: 17 January 2019 / Revised: 13 March 2019 / Accepted: 18 March 2019 / Published: 20 March 2019
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Abstract
Purpose: To examine the effect of acute moderate-intensity continuous exercise performed under normobaric severe hypoxia on cognition, compared to sea-level normoxia. Methods: Thirty healthy inactive women randomly performed two experimental trials separated by at least three days but at approximately the same time [...] Read more.
Purpose: To examine the effect of acute moderate-intensity continuous exercise performed under normobaric severe hypoxia on cognition, compared to sea-level normoxia. Methods: Thirty healthy inactive women randomly performed two experimental trials separated by at least three days but at approximately the same time of day. Executive functions were measured during the follicular stage via an interference control task before (rest) and during exercise with 45% peak power output under normobaric normoxia (PIO2 = 150 mmHg, FIO2 = 0.21), and (2) hypoxia (PIO2 = 87 mmHg, FIO2 = 0.12, simulated at an altitude of 4000 m). Reaction time (RT), accuracy rate (AC), heart rate, ratings of perceived exertion, and peripheral oxygen saturation (SpO2) were collected before and during exercise. Results: RT (p < 0.05, η2p = 0.203) decreased during moderate exercise when compared at rest, while a short bout of severe hypoxia improved RT (p < 0.05, η2p = 0.134). Exercise and hypoxia had no effects on AC (p > 0.05). No significant associations were found between the changes of RT and SpO2 under the conditions of normoxia and hypoxia (p > 0.05). Conclusions: At the same phase of the menstrual cycle, a short bout of severe hypoxia simulated at 4000 m altitude caused no impairment at rest. RT during moderate exercise ameliorated in normoxia and severe hypoxia, suggesting that both exercise and short-term severe hypoxia have benefits on cognitive function in sedentary young women. Full article
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Review

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Open AccessReview
Creating an Internal Environment of Cognitive and Psycho-Emotional Well-Being through an External Movement-Based Environment: An Overview of Quadrato Motor Training
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16(12), 2160; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16122160
Received: 15 April 2019 / Revised: 14 June 2019 / Accepted: 17 June 2019 / Published: 18 June 2019
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Abstract
In this overview, we discuss the internal and external environmental factors associated with cognitive and psycho-emotional well-being in the context of physical activity and Mindful Movement. Our key argument is that improved cognitive and emotional functions associated with mental well-being can be achieved [...] Read more.
In this overview, we discuss the internal and external environmental factors associated with cognitive and psycho-emotional well-being in the context of physical activity and Mindful Movement. Our key argument is that improved cognitive and emotional functions associated with mental well-being can be achieved by an external, Mindful Movement-based environment training called Quadrato Motor Training (QMT). QMT is a structured sensorimotor training program aimed at improving coordination, attention, and emotional well-being through behavioral, electrophysiological, neuroanatomical, and molecular changes. In accordance with this argument, we first describe the general neurobiological mechanisms underpinning emotional states and emotion regulation. Next, we review the relationships between QMT, positive emotional state, and increased emotion regulation, and discuss the neurobiological mechanisms underlying these relationships. We consider the relationships between motion, emotion, and cognition, and highlight the need for integrated training paradigms involving these three trajectories. Such training paradigms provide cognitively engaging exercises to improve emotion regulation, which in turn affects adaptive behaviors. Finally, we address the broader implications of improving cognitive and emotional functioning through Mindful Movement training for environmental research and public health. Full article
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Open AccessReview
Active Commuting to and from School, Cognitive Performance, and Academic Achievement in Children and Adolescents: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Observational Studies
Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2019, 16(10), 1839; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph16101839
Received: 9 April 2019 / Revised: 15 May 2019 / Accepted: 17 May 2019 / Published: 23 May 2019
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Abstract
Background: Physical activity has a beneficial effect on the brain’s development process and cognitive function. However, no review to date has evaluated the effects of active commuting to and from school (ACS) on cognitive performance and academic achievement. The aim of this systematic [...] Read more.
Background: Physical activity has a beneficial effect on the brain’s development process and cognitive function. However, no review to date has evaluated the effects of active commuting to and from school (ACS) on cognitive performance and academic achievement. The aim of this systematic review and meta-analysis was to evaluate the link between ACS and cognitive performance and academic achievement in children and adolescents. Methods: We systematically searched MEDLINE, EMBASE, Web of Science and PsycINFO databases for all observational studies published until May 2019 that examined the association between ACS and cognitive performance or academic achievement. Studies were classified into two groups according to their measured outcomes: cognitive performance (nonexecutive cognitive functions, core executive functions, and metacognition) and academic achievement (marks of different areas). A pooled effect size (ES) was estimated using the DerSimonian and Laird random-effects method for cognitive performance and each area of academic achievement. Results: Twelve studies that evaluated the relationship between ACS and cognitive performance or academic achievement were included in the systematic review: four studies analyzed both cognitive performance and academic achievement, one study provided data regarding cognitive performance and seven provided data on academic achievement. Finally, nine of 12 studies provided enough data for inclusion in the meta-analysis. Our findings suggest that ACS was not significantly associated with cognitive performance (ES = −0.02; 95% CI: −0.06 to 0.03) or academic achievement (ES = −0.33; 95% CI: −0.83 to 0.17 for mathematics-related skills; ES = −0.37; 95% CI: −0.88 to 0.15 for language-related skills). Conclusions: There was insufficient evidence regarding the relationship between ACS and cognitive performance and academic achievement. Future studies should include potential confounders in their analyses and consider the use of standardized self-reports or objective measures of ACS. Full article
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Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health EISSN 1660-4601 Published by MDPI AG, Basel, Switzerland RSS E-Mail Table of Contents Alert
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