31st Jan 2024

Numerous studies have shown that schoolchildren with low levels of adiposity and high levels of fitness have a lower risk of cardiorespiratory disease in later life. However, their effect on cognitive indicators is less clear. The aim of this study was to analyse the relationships between the profiles generated from fitness and fatness indicators and executive functions in secondary school students.

Methods: A total of 1158 secondary school students aged 11-16 years (M = 12.55; SD = 0.85) participated in the study. As fitness indicators, cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) was estimated from the 20 m shuttle run, upper body strength by dynamometry and lower body strength by the standing long jump test. Fatness was assessed by waist circumference. Executive functions (i.e., inhibition, working memory, and cognitive flexibility) were evaluated with NIH Examiner software. Latent profile analysis was performed using MPLUS, which identified the 4-profile option as the most plausible solution.

Results: The 4-profile solution showed: 1) slightly low fitness and fat profile; 2) very high fat, low CRF and slightly low strength; 3) slightly high fat, high fitness; and 4) slightly low fat, high CRF and slightly high strength. Profiles 3 and 4 showed better inhibition and cognitive flexibility than profiles 1 and 2, whereas profile 4 showed better working memory than profiles 1 and 2 (p < 0.05).

Conclusion: The results of this study highlight the need to implement strategies to promote healthy lifestyles in school children, not only to improve health parameters, but also to improve cognitive skills for better academic performance.

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