Associations between gestational age, physical activity and cognitive functioning among children in early school age
The aim of this study was to examine differences and associations concerning physical activity and cognitive functioning among children born preterm in comparison to those born full term. The sample consisted of 130 children at early school age (mean = 7.8 years), born at a gestational age (GA) of 23 - 42 weeks, and categorized into three groups; children born full term (GA 39 - 42), moderately preterm (GA 34 – 36) and very preterm (GA 23 - 33). Physical activities were perceived from parents’ ratings by use of the Child behaviour checklist (CBCL), and cognitive functioning by WISC-IV. Results showed that children born moderately preterm performed comparable to children born full term, both regarding physical activity ratings and cognitive performance. Children born very preterm were found to have significantly poorer full scale IQ, lower physical performance, fewer sport activities, and were less lateralized, in comparison to both children born full term and those born moderately preterm. Conclusion: a very preterm birth seems to generate long-term effects on physical activities, sport performance and cognitive functioning. Thus, more focus should be paid to children born at a very low GA to identify early deviations and to provide interventions to improve cognitive functioning and enhance physical performance; also in contexts other than sport activities.
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