What is it about?

Physical activities that are mentally engaging and include an element of skill learning may enhance peoples’ cognitive functions beyond gains achieved from exercise programs designed to promote physical and brain health. Regardless of exercise mode, instructional methods that properly challenge learners’ thoughts and actions enrich and maintain cognition. These findings apply across the life-span.

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Why is it important?

Physical activities that are thoughtful, challenging, and goal-directed may promote maximal mental benefits. The skill-acquisition perspective proposed in our article suggests that virtually any complex movement activity, instructed properly, can improve an individual’s cognitive function.


Sports, music, and dance exist all cultures. We find it plausible that instructional methods that optimize physical and mental challenge provide the conditions necessary to learn how to solve problems and to develop mental skills that can be used throughout life.

Phillip Tomporowski
University of Georgia

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This page is a summary of: Exercise, sports, and performance arts benefit cognition via a common process., Psychological Bulletin, June 2019, American Psychological Association (APA), DOI: 10.1037/bul0000200.
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