Physically active academic lessons: Effects on physical fitness and executive functions in primary school children

Johannes Wilhelmus de Greeff

Research output: ThesisThesis fully internal (DIV)

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There is increasing evidence that physical activity can improve cognitive functions of primary school children, especially the executive functions (functions that are important for goal directed cognition and behavior). Physically active academic lessons, however, do not improve executive functions in primary school children. This is the conclusion of the thesis of UMCG-researcher Marck de Greeff. A two-year teaching method (called ‘Fit & Vaardig op school’) was developed to improve executive functions and school performance in socially disadvantaged children and children without a social disadvantage. With this teaching method almost 500 second and third grade children were physically active during regular language and math classes. For example, children had to jump eight times to solve the multiplication ‘4 times 2’ or had to perform a squat for every spelled letter in a word. In between the tasks, children were jogging or marching on the spot. In his thesis, de Greeff shows that socially disadvantaged children score lower on math, spelling and reading compared to children without a social disadvantage. In addition, socially disadvantaged children score lower on one of the domains of executive functions (cognitive flexibility), but they do not score lower on physical fitness. Remarkably, the physically active academic lessons had little effect on physical fitness and executive functions. De Greeff concludes that perhaps the intensity of the lessons was too low. Moreover cognitive challenging physical activity may result in larger effects on executive functions, compared to physical activity that focuses on improving physical fitness.
Original languageEnglish
QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
Awarding Institution
  • University of Groningen
  • Visscher, Chris, Supervisor
  • Bosker, Roel, Supervisor
  • Hartman, Esther, Co-supervisor
  • Doolaard, Simone, Co-supervisor
Award date30-Nov-2016
Place of Publication[Groningen]
Print ISBNs978-90-367-9309-4
Electronic ISBNs978-90-367-9308-7
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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