Inhibitory control is a main component of executive functions that relate to the ability to control prepotent responses and to resist interferences. Deficits in inhibitory control have been associated with numerous disorders, but exercise has become a promising approach to benefit this domain. This systematic review and meta-analysis aims to provide synthesized information and effect size calculations of the benefits of chronic exercise interventions on the inhibitory control of healthy children and adolescents. A systematic search of PubMed, PsycINFO, MEDLINE, ERIC, SPORTDiscus, and PsycArticles identified 4166 articles to be screened for eligibility. A total of 10 studies (3138 participants) met the inclusion criteria. A random-effects analysis model was performed in three variables: accuracy, reaction time and combined scores. The results showed a very small but statistically significant effect in accuracy (d = 0.14, 95% CI 0.01 to 0.27, P =.04), and two almost null effects (statistically non-significant), in the reaction time (d = 0.03, 95% CI -0.10 to 0.16, P =.62) and the combined scores (d = 0.06, 95% CI -0.03 to 0.15, P =.17). Despite the high number of studies that reported positive outcomes, this meta-analysis found only modest benefits in the inhibitory control of healthy children and adolescents after they participated in different chronic exercise interventions. The strict inclusion criteria of this study and the high variability in the designs of the exercise interventions included, among other reasons, might explain the obtained results.
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