ISSN 0439-755X
CN 11-1911/B

Acta Psychologica Sinica ›› 2021, Vol. 53 ›› Issue (5): 505-514.doi: 10.3724/SP.J.1041.2021.00505

• Reports of Empirical Studies • Previous Articles     Next Articles

Exergame can improve children’s executive function: The role of physical intensity and cognitive engagement

GAI XiaoSong, XU Jie, YAN Yan, WANG Yuan, XIE XiaoChun()   

  1. College of Psychology, Northeast Normal University, Changchun 130024, China
  • Received:2020-04-27 Published:2021-05-25 Online:2021-03-29
  • Contact: XIE XiaoChun
  • Supported by:
    National Social Science Foundation of China(19ZDA357)


Executive function refers to advanced cognitive processes that control and regulate other cognitive processes, including working memory, inhibition control, and cognitive flexibility. This function is a high-level cognitive ability when completing complex cognitive tasks. Executive function is an important predictor of a child’s physical and mental health, quality of life, school success, marital happiness, and public safety. Studies have shown that physical activities, such as mindfulness yoga, coordinated exercises, martial arts, and exergame can improve children’s executive function. Exergame is also a type of physical activity, as a synthetic word, which is a combination of exercise and game and can be seen as a physical activity for stimulating an active whole-body gaming experience. This study aims to investigate the effects of physical intensity and cognitive engagement in exergame on promoting children’s executive function immediately and long-term training.
This study conducted a 2 (high/low physical intensity) × 2(high/low cognitive engagement) × 3(measurement time: before/immediately/after training) mixed experimental design, wherein 122 children age 4~6 years old were trained for six weeks. Among the within-subject variables were exercise physical and cognitive engagement, and the between-subject variable was the measurement time. The dependent variables were working memory, inhibitory control, and cognitive flexibility.
Results showed that physical intensity, rather than cognitive engagement in exergame, significantly improved children’s executive function, especially the working memory after training immediately. In the long-term intervention, physical intensity and cognitive engagement in exergame significantly promoted children’s executive function, and the promoting effect of cognitive engagement was greater than that of physical intensity.
This study demonstrates the benefits of long-term exergame training on children’s executive function and the types of exergame that can improve such function in children in the short or long term.

Key words: exergame, cognitive engagement, physical intensity, executive function