The Effects of Maximal Intensity Exercise on Cognitive Performance in Children

Roy David Samuel, Ofir Zavdy, Miriam Levav, Ronen Reuveny, Uriel Katz, Gal Dubnov-Raz

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


High intensity physical exercise has previously been found to lead to a decline in cognitive performance of adults. The aim of this study was to determine the effects of maximal intensity exercise on cognitive performance of children. Using a repeated-measures design, 20 children and adolescents aged 8-17 years completed a battery of tests measuring memory and attention. Forward and Backward Digit Span tests, the Rey Auditory-Verbal Learning Test (RAVLT) and the Digit Symbol Substitution Test (DSST) were performed at baseline, immediately after, and one hour after a maximal cardiopulmonary exercise test. Forward and Backward Digit Span scores significantly improved postrecovery compared with baseline measurements. There was a significant decrease in RAVLT scores post-exercise, which returned to baseline values after recovery. The DSST test scores were mildly elevated from post-exercise to after recovery. Maximal intensity exercise in children and adolescents may result in both beneficial and detrimental cognitive effects, including transient impairment in verbal learning. Cognitive functions applying short term memory improve following a recovery period. Parents, educators and coaches should consider these changes in memory and attention following high-intensity exercise activities in children.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)85-96
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Human Kinetics
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2017


  • cognition
  • neurocognitive
  • pediatrics
  • physical activity
  • short term memory
  • verbal learning


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