The Role of Physical Activity on Executive Functions Among Youth in Poverty

Published: 14 November 2018| Version 1 | DOI: 10.17632/n7scyt76bc.1
Jesse Mala


In this study, I sought to find the role of physical activity on executive functions among youth in poverty. In order to assess this phenomenon, executive functions (cognitive flexibility, inhibition, & working memory), and physical activity were measured among participants (N = 149) in the 5th-8th grade from three schools located in high poverty districts in the Northeast and the Southwest United States. Pearson moment correlations revealed a statistically significant correlation between physical activity and cognitive flexibility (r = 0.18, p < 0.05), but no significant correlations between physical activity and inhibition and working memory. A two-way multivariate analysis of covariance (MANCOVA) was utilized to further assess mean differences between activity status on executive functions. The results revealed statistically significant differences in working memory among more active youth in poverty compared to less active youth, but no statistically significant differences in cognitive flexibility or inhibition (p < 0.05). In conclusion, greater physical activity is associated with greater working memory, particularly among youth in poverty, which has implications for health, education and life outcomes.


Steps to reproduce

Executive functions data were gathered by using the NIH Toolbox: Cognition Battery. Three specific tests were used, the Flanker task, the list sorting working memory test, and the dimensional change card sort test. All data were gathered on the iPad, and t-scores were computed through the NIH application. The physical activity questionnaire (PAQ-C) was used to gather the physical activity data. Scores were computed by summing up the scores for each item and dividing them by the number of total items. Scores for the PAQ-C are on a 1-5 scale, with 1 being the lowest level of activity to 5 being the highest level of activity. The executive functions data and the PAQ-C were collected in the same week, but on separate days.


University of Connecticut


Education, Poverty, Sport, Sport Recreational Health, Kinesiology, Executive Functions