Published: May 2016

ID #: 1092

Journal: Prev Med Reports

Authors: Tandon PS, Tovar A, Jayasuriya AT, et al.

See more related research


Given that early childhood is a formative developmental period, this study addresses important knowledge gaps by systematically reviewing the current literature on the relationship between physical activity and dietary patterns with cognitive outcomes in early childhood (6 months to 5 years). For physical activity, twelve studies (5 cross-sectional, 3 longitudinal, and 4 experimental) were included. Eleven studies reported evidence suggesting that physical activity or gross motor skills are related to cognition or learning. Both acute bouts and longer term exposures showed benefit. For diet, eight studies were included consisting of secondary analyses from longitudinal cohort studies. A healthier dietary pattern was associated with better cognitive outcomes in all studies, although some of the reported associations were weak and the measures used varied across the studies. The review finds preliminary evidence that physical activity and healthy diets in early childhood are associated with better cognitive outcomes in young children. However, there is a need for more rigorous research in this area given the limited amount of literature and the variability in types and quality of measures used. As early learning has become an area of priority, research on children’s diet and activity behaviors should include cognitive and developmental outcomes.

Related Research

January 2024

Food Insecurity and the Child Tax Credit

Food insecurity puts people at risk for many poor physical and mental health outcomes. Food insecurity stayed stable during much of the COVID-19 pandemic but rose significantly from 2021-2022 among U.S. households with children. Many federal supports were offered during the COVID-19 pandemic. These included expansions in food assistance programs like SNAP, as well as More

November 2023

Evaluating the impact of state-level economic-support policies on the nutritional health of kids and families

To address ongoing concerns of child poverty across the United States, states have introduced and modified family economic security policies related to the state minimum wage (MW) and state earned income tax credit (EITC). While poor nutritional health disproportionately impacts children who experience poverty, few studies have examined the potentially beneficial effects of state-level MW More

November 2023

Determining whether length of participation in social safety-net programs is associated with diet quality and weight status for children 2 to 5

Medicaid, SNAP, and WIC provide low-income children access to vital medical and nutrition services for long-term health and well-being. Despite these benefits, few studies have investigated if these safety net programs, or the synergistic combination of all three programs, are associated with diet quality and weight status; and none have focused on examining these longitudinal More