Physical and Motor Fitness, Sport Skills and Executive Function in Adolescents: A Moderated Prediction Model


Recent evidence suggests that fitness and sport expertise jointly benefit cognition and that expertise in cognitively demanding strategic sports enhances both domain-specific cognition and domain-general cognitive function, the executive. However, research focusing on whether physical and motor fitness and sport skill are independent determinants of executive function efficiency, or interact with each other is still lacking. The present study investigated this issue in adolescents. Four hundred and eleven boys and girls aged 12 to 15 years were recruited from Italian schools. They were tested for 1) physical fitness (cardiovascular fitness and muscle power); 2) motor control and perceptual-motor adaptation ability (kinaesthetic discrimination and response orientation ability); 3) core executive functions (inhibition and working memory updating); 4) game skills in team sport (decision making and support). While working memory updating was predicted only by physical fitness, inhibition was predicted by game skill, physical fitness and response orientation ability, and by the interaction of these latter ones. Fitness level significantly moderated the prediction accrued by response orientation ability, with inhibition predicted only in the presence of higher physical fitness. The present findings support the view that there are other pathways through which sport practice influences executive function beside the well-known physical fitness/executive function relationship. Alternatives include those linking executive function to the ability to perform coordinated movements in response to environmental cues and to the ability to perform cognitively challenging, strategic actions as needed in sport game situations. Also, the findings highlight that different executive functions are differently linked to physical fitness, motor fitness and sport proficiency.

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Marchetti, R. , Forte, R. , Borzacchini, M. , Vazou, S. , Tomporowski, P. and Pesce, C. (2015) Physical and Motor Fitness, Sport Skills and Executive Function in Adolescents: A Moderated Prediction Model. Psychology, 6, 1915-1929. doi: 10.4236/psych.2015.614189.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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