Do acute and chronic physical activity interventions affect the cognitive function of preschool children? A meta-analysis

Huiqi Song, Jing Jing Wang, Borui Zhang, Lei Shi, Patrick W.C. Lau*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


This meta-analysis aims to investigate the effects of acute and chronic physical activity (PA) interventions on multiple domains of cognitive function (CF) in preschool children. Electronic databases (PsycINFO, PubMed, SPORTDiscus, Embase, Web of Science, MEDLINE, and ERIC) were searched for relevant studies between January 2000 and February 2022. Studies that examined the effects of acute or chronic physical activity interventions on CF in preschool children aged 2–6 years were included. A total of 16 articles were eligible for this meta-analysis. Results showed that there was no effect of acute PA interventions on CF (Hedges’ g = 0.04; 95% CI = −0.12, 0.19). Chronic PA interventions had a moderate and positive effect on overall CF (Hedges’ g = 0.49; 95% CI = 0.29, 0.69), a large effect on perception (Hedges’ g = 1.19; 95% CI = 0.64, 1.75), and a moderate effect on inhibitory control (Hedges’ g = 0.73; 95% CI = 0.22, 1.24). The moderator analyses showed that overall CF performance was significantly moderated by intervention modality and assessment of cognitive outcomes, and no other moderator (study design, sample size, frequency, duration, and session length) was found to have an effect. Chronic PA intervention might be a promising way to promote multiple aspects of CF, especially executive function and perception. Future studies should explore the effect of different intensities of PA on the CF of preschool children to discern the most effective PA prescription to, in turn, enhance the CF of preschool children.

Original languageEnglish
Article number102419
Number of pages12
JournalPsychology of Sport and Exercise
Early online date10 Mar 2023
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2023

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Applied Psychology

User-Defined Keywords

  • Acute physical activity intervention
  • Chronic physical activity intervention
  • Cognitive function
  • Preschool children


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