What is it about?

Aerobic fitness is often considered one of the best indicators of childhood health. It is also linked to better academic performance, executive function, and larger brain volume. However, aerobic fitness has been studied quite narrowly, often using methods that do not optimally represent it. We found that aerobic fitness performance measured by the 20-meter shuttle run test was associated with several different brain health outcomes. Somewhat surprisingly, the maximal oxygen uptake measured objectively during the treadmill test was not associated with any brain health outcome.

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Why is it important?

It is important to note that the 20-meter shuttle run result is determined not only by maximal oxygen uptake but also by other factors such as body composition, motor skills, and motivation. Endurance performance that combines these characteristics may be the most beneficial for brain health from childhood. Therefore, the significance of aerobic fitness for brain health is not yet fully understood, partly due to variable methods. According to our study, maximal oxygen uptake does not seem to be very significant for children’s brain health. However, these findings have important implications since the 20-meter shuttle run test is widely used in primary and secondary schools all around the world, and several countries, such as Finland, have a nationwide fitness monitoring system which includes this test. Our results indicate these fitness assessments are informative and predictive of the brain health status of the kids evaluated, and these monitoring systems can identify regions with poorer fitness, which can inform public health strategies.


It was such a nice collaboration with Professor Ortega and his team and with Drs Lubans and Barker. They are such a great team to work with.

Dr. Eero Haapala
University of Jyväskylä

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Which indices of cardiorespiratory fitness are more strongly associated with brain health in children with overweight/obesity?, Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports, December 2023, Wiley,
DOI: 10.1111/sms.14549.
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