Date of Award

2015

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Psychology

Abstract

Recent evidence suggests that the summer months represent an especially vulnerable time of year for weight gain, inactivity, and cognitive decline, particularly among adolescent girls. To explore these issues, this study examined the relations between changes in physical activity (PA), body mass index (BMI), and executive functions (EFs) among a sample of sixty-eight, 10-to 14-year-old girls participating in a four-week, community-based summer camp. Objectively measured PA data (i.e., accelerometer), BMI measurements, and EF neuropsychological assessments were conducted prior to the first week of camp and during the last week of camp. Results revealed that girls increased in all measurements of PA, as well as maintained stable zBMI and BMI percentile across the camp. Findings related to the influence of PA on EFs were somewhat mixed, as increases in specific aspects of PA were related to both lower zBMI and improvement in inhibition skills at the end of camp, but poorer performance on the shifting and working memory tasks. Additionally, higher zBMI was associated with improved working memory performance for participants who demonstrated larger increases in PA throughout the camp. Findings suggest that summertime physical activity programs may be one cost-effective avenue through which policy makers and educators might intervene to buffer negative physical and cognitive health outcomes.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.

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