Evidence accrued from research conducted over the past few years suggests that gains in children’s mental functioning due to exercise training are seen most clearly on tasks that involve executive functions. Executive functions are involved in performing goal-directed actions in complex stimulus environments, especially novel ones, in which elements are constantly changing. Behaviors such as these have long been seen as important for children’s adaptive functioning. Exercise training programs may prove to be simple, yet important, methods of enhancing aspects of children’s mental functioning that are central to cognitive and social development. Many questions concerning the relation between exercise and children’s cognitive functioning remain unanswered, however. It is unknown whether improvements in cognition caused by exercise are maintained following the termination of physical activity or if they decline. Further, it remains to be determined, for instance, if the benefits obtained are related to the type, duration, or intensity of exercise training programs. Answers to these questions will be attained through systematic research designed around contemporary exercise science and cognitive theory. At this time, no theory has been proposed that satisfactorily addresses the relation between exercise and cognition.
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