Associations of class-time sitting, stepping and sit-to-stand transitions with cognitive functions and brain activity in children


Previous research showed that children’s physical activity is positively related to executive functions, whilst screen time shows negative associations. However, it is unclear how school-based sitting time and transitions from sitting to standing relate to cognition. We investigated the relationship between class time sitting/stepping/sit-to-stand transitions and cognitive functions in Grade 1–2 children. Overall, 149 children (7.7 ± 0.6 years old, 54% boys) participated. Measures included class time sitting/stepping/sit-to-stand transitions and: (i) response inhibition (i.e., response time and accuracy); (ii) lapses of attention; (iii) working memory; and (iv) brain activity (cortical haemodynamic response). Linear mixed-models, adjusting for age, sex, and clustering at the classroom level, found that more sitting time was associated with higher lapses of attention ($β$ = 0.12, p < 0.05). Children who stepped more had quicker inhibition response time ($β$ = −0.95, p < 0.01); however, they were less accurate in their responses ($β$ = −0.30, p < 0.05) and this was also observed with sit-to-stand transitions ($β$ = −0.26, p < 0.05). No associations were found with brain activity. In conclusion, reducing and breaking up sitting may help keep children focused, but the evidence regarding response inhibition is unclear.

International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health