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BioMed Research International
Volume 2017 (2017), Article ID 2760716, 13 pages
Review Article

Effects of Physical Activity on Motor Skills and Cognitive Development in Early Childhood: A Systematic Review

1School of Kinesiology, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, 1900 University Ave. SE, Minneapolis, MN 55455, USA
2Department of Physical Education, Qujing Normal University, Sanjiang Road, Qujing, Yunnan 655011, China
3College of Biological Sciences, University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, Minneapolis, MN, USA
4College of Education, University of South Florida, 4202 E. Fowler Avenue, EDU105, Tampa, FL 33620-5650, USA
5Department of Physical Education, College of Education, Zhejiang University, 148 Tianmushan Road, Hangzhou 310028, China
6College of Education and Human Development, Texas A&M University, Harrington Education Center Office Tower, 4222 TAMU, 540 Ross Street, College Station, TX 77843, USA

Correspondence should be addressed to Zan Gao

Received 7 August 2017; Revised 5 November 2017; Accepted 20 November 2017; Published 13 December 2017

Academic Editor: H.-X. Wang

Copyright © 2017 Nan Zeng et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Objective. This study synthesized literature concerning casual evidence of effects of various physical activity programs on motor skills and cognitive development in typically developed preschool children. Methods. Electronic databases were searched through July 2017. Peer-reviewed randomized controlled trials (RCTs) examining the effectiveness of physical activity on motor skills and cognitive development in healthy young children (4–6 years) were screened. Results. A total of 15 RCTs were included. Of the 10 studies assessing the effects of physical activity on motor skills, eight (80%) reported significant improvements in motor performance and one observed mixed findings, but one failed to promote any beneficial outcomes. Of the five studies investigating the influence of physical activity on cognitive development, four (80%) showed significant and positive changes in language learning, academic achievement, attention, and working memory. Notably, one indicated no significant improvements were observed after the intervention. Conclusions. Findings support causal evidence of effects of physical activity on both motor skills and cognitive development in preschool children. Given the shortage of available studies, future research with large representative samples is warranted to explore the relationships between physical activity and cognitive domains as well as strengthen and confirm the dose-response evidence in early childhood.