OBJECTIVES: This study investigates the impact of various physical activity (PA) types on executive functions (EFs) in children and adolescents. DESIGN: A systematic review and network meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials.
METHODS: We searched databases such as PubMed, Embase, Cochrane, and Web of Science up to April 2023, including randomized controlled trials involving 6 distinct PA types for healthy children and adolescents. The Cochrane risk of bias tool was used to assess the risk of bias, and a random-effects model in STATA 17.0 was used to calculate standardized mean differences (SMDs) and 95% confidence intervals (CI).
RESULTS: Ball Games emerged as the most effective modality for improving updating accuracy, securing a SUCRA score of 94.4%, and for reducing inhibition reaction time, with a SUCRA score of 94.8%. Cognitively Engaging Physical Activity led in improving inhibition accuracy with a SUCRA score of 71.7%. Dance excelled in improving update accuracy and reducing shifting reaction time, with SUCRA scores of 86.6% and 99.5%, respectively.
CONCLUSIONS: PA has a significant benefit in EFs in children and adolescents, however the size of the effect varies by type of PA. Ball Games emerged as the most efficacious modality for enhancing updating accuracy and for expediting inhibition reaction time. Cognitively Engaging Physical Activity proved to be the preeminent strategy for improving inhibition accuracy. Dance was distinguished as the optimal approach for improving updating accuracy and reducing shifting reaction time.
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