WEDNESDAY, March 6 (HealthDay News) -- Short bouts of moderately intense exercise appear to improve the self-control of youngsters and young adults, a broad review of existing research suggests.
The Dutch analysis of 24 prior studies highlights the potential mental health benefit for people 6 to 35 years old who engage in a half-hour cycle or run, for example, but it remains unclear how long the positive effects last.
And whether repetitive training programs spread out over weeks or months might have a similar impact on youthful inhibitions also remains an open question.
"There were too few studies looking into the effects of long-term regular exercise to really know what the impact is, but the effect of short-term exercise is clear," said study lead author Lot Verburgh, a doctoral candidate in the department of clinical neuropsychology at VU University in Amsterdam.
"Tests conducted immediately after short bouts of exercise showed a clear improvement among higher-order functions like self-control, a cognitive [brain] function that is really important for daily activities in terms of both social life and academic performance," said Verburgh.
The association, gleaned from 19 studies involving 586 participants, is discussed in the March 6 online issue of the British Journal of Sports Medicine.
The findings could have relevance for treating disorders associated with impaired inhibition, including attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism, according to the study.
The authors noted that past research has indicated that moderate exercise can positively affect mental function among older adults. Walking, for example, has been associated with improved memory and attention skills among otherwise sedentary seniors, they explained.
For this project, the team looked at studies conducted through 2012 that focused on three age groups:
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