The aim of this study was to systematically review the literature investigating the acute effects of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) on executive functions (EFs) in children with attention-deficit/ hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and perform a meta-analysis of the effects of MVPA on task components that require lower and higher EF demand in this population.
The systematic review and meta-analysis followed the Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic Reviews and Meta-Analysis (PRISMA) guidelines. Six electronic databases, i.e., PubMed, Scopus, Web of Science, Embase, SPORTDiscus, and Education Resources Information Center (ERIC), were searched for eligible studies. Randomeffects weights were used to pool the effect sizes. Publication bias was assessed by Egger's regression test and Rosenthal's fail-safe N. This study is registered on PROSPERO, number CRD42020184082.
The electronic database search yielded 12 studies, which met the inclusion criteria, comprising a total of 375 participants. Eleven studies with data from 275 participants were included in the meta-analysis to examine the acute effects of MVPA on tasks with lower and higher EF demand. A single bout of MVPA had a small positive effect on tasks with lower (n = 10, g = 0.32, 95% CI = 0.123-0.517) and higher (n = 10, g = 0.25, 95% CI = 0.13-0.371) EF demand. No publication bias was found. Conclusions: A single bout of MVPA may have a general facilitative effect on cognition, indicating that acute MVPA may be a transient nonpharmacological adjunctive treatment for childhood ADHD.
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