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Effects of exercise on cognitive functions

Zhang M, Jia J, Yang Y, Zhang L, Wang X. Effects of exercise interventions on cognitive functions in healthy populations: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Ageing Res Rev. 2023 Nov 3;92:102116.

American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) indicate that several exercise variables should be assessed when considering exercise prescriptions to improve the cognitive health of the brain; they proposed the FITT-VP principle as a reference, defined as:

  • exercise frequency (how often)
  • intensity (difficulty)
  • time (duration of each bout of exercise)
  • type (of exercise)
  • volume (total amount of exercise per intervention)
  • progression (change in difficulty in an exercise program over intervention time)
There is dearth of studies that have simultaneously considered:
  • whether chronic exercise interventions may affect various cognitive functions of individuals in the general population from childhood to adulthood and into older age
  • how each of exercise variables further moderating this relationship
  • in healthy populations of children and youths (ages 6–17 years old), adults (ages 18–60 years old), and elderly adults (ages >60 years)
The analysis of exercise type indicated that all exercise types had significant effects on cognition.
  • For exercise duration, moderate and long exercise durations (p < 0.001) both had significant effects on cognition.
  • Low and moderate exercise frequency both had significant effects on cognition.
  • Some of the assessed cognitive domains benefited positively from exercise interventions. Specifically, global cognition (p<0.001), executive function (p = 0.01), and memory (p = 0.01) showed statistically significant differences compared to the control groups, whereas no statistical significance was found for attention (p = 0.14) and information processing.
  • Global cognition needs aerobic exercise, moderate duration,, moderate frequency, moderate intensity.
  • Executive function need resistance exercise, low frequency and moderate length intervention.
  • Memory requires mind-body exercise, moderate duration, moderate frequency, high-intensity exercise and moderate intervention length.
  • Attention and information processing need low-intensity and moderate frequency exercise.
  • Global cognition, executive function, and memory performances were significantly improved in older participants.

Physical activity may improve autism deficits

Gehricke, J.-G., Chan, J., Farmer, J.G., Fenning, R.M., Steinberg-Epstein, R., Misra, M., Parker, R.A., & Neumeyer, A.M. (2020). Physical activity rates in children and adolescents with autism spectrum disorder compared to the general population. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders.

Physical activity may improve symptoms and skill deficits associated with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

The objective of this study was to compare the reported frequency of physical activity and covariates in a large sample of children with ASD with children of similar age from the general population. The sample with ASD was derived from the Autism Treatment Network Registry Call Back Assessment (n = 611), and the general population data were derived from the National Survey of Children’s Health (NSCH) (n = 71,811). In addition, demographic, child, and family (parent) factors were examined in relation to frequency of recent physical activity in children with ASD.

Among males in the 6-11 year-old age group, those with ASD participated in physical activity less often (p <0.001) than those in the NSCH general population. Specifically, 33 % of boys 6-11 years old in the NSCH group vs. only 17 % in the RCBA group 6-11 years old engaged in some physical activity every day, while 4 % of boys in the NSCH group vs. 18 % in the RCBA group engaged in no physical activity whatsoever. A similar effect was seen across other age groups and in females but was not statistically significant.

The demographic, child, and family characteristics associated with physical activity in children and adolescents with ASD included ethnicity in females, DSM-IV ASD diagnosis, IQ, and PAM-13 total score in females.

Parents and caregivers are encouraged to find suitable physical activity programs for children with ASD. This may be especially important for 6-11 year-old boys with ASD who engage in significantly less physical activity than their peers in the general population.

Is it a benefit for young to have sports organized by adults?

We know that almost all young people under 18 (90.6%) practice sports in sports facilities, therefore in situations organized for them by sports clubs and ultimately by adults. Consequently, the time in which young people organize themselves autonomously is very limited, if not absent.

The practice of sports organized and managed by adults can offer numerous advantages to young people, such as learning rules, teamwork, physical development, and guidance from experienced coaches. However, it is equally important that young people have the opportunity to participate in autonomous and self-managed sports experiences.

Here are some points to consider as food for thought for the sports world, which then requires on-field sense of responsibility, decision-making skills, and autonomy:

  1. Development of leadership and autonomy - Allowing young people to organize and manage sports activities on their own can promote the development of their decision-making, leadership, and problem-solving skills. This type of experience helps them become more independent and take initiative.
  2. Creativity and entrepreneurial spirit - Self-management of sports can promote creativity and innovation among young people, encouraging them to develop new ways to practice a sport or organize sports events.
  3. Flexibility and adaptability - Working autonomously in sports teaches young people to be flexible and adaptable to changing situations, improving their problem-solving and adaptability skills.
  4. Balance between structure and freedom -BIt is important to find a balance between adult organization and young people’s self-management in sports. Both experiences have their advantages, and the ideal could be a mix of the structure offered by adults and the autonomy granted to young people.
  5. Inclusion and diversity - Self-management could promote greater inclusion and diversity in sports activities, allowing a variety of people to participate based on their needs and interests.
  6. Fosters responsibility - Self-management in sports teaches young people to be responsible for their actions and decisions. They learn to manage their time, take responsibility, and fulfill commitments within the sports context.
  7. Boosts self-confidence - When young people autonomously manage sports activities, they can experience success through their own efforts and work. This contributes to boosting self-confidence and a positive perception of their abilities.
  8. Promotes collaborative spirit - Collaborating among peers in managing sports activities fosters the development of closer social relationships. It creates an environment where young people learn to work together, negotiate, resolve conflicts, and make group decisions.
  9. Encourages creativity and innovation - Self-management offers the freedom to experiment with new ideas and methods in the sports field. This freedom stimulates creativity and innovation, encouraging young people to think originally and adopt unconventional solutions.
  10. Provides a sense of belonging and identity - When young people are actively involved in managing sports activities, they develop a sense of belonging and identity with the group. This sense of belonging can increase motivation and enthusiasm in practicing sports.

In conclusion, while sports organized and managed by adults offer a solid structure and professional guidance, allowing young people to take initiative and autonomously manage some sports activities can significantly contribute to the development of their individual, social, and decision-making skills. Finding a balance between these two approaches can be extremely advantageous for their overall development.

The need to have a routine: the Phelps tape

Michael Phelps, one of the greatest swimmers in history, was known for his intense preparation and routine before competitions. His pre-race routine, often referred to as “watching the tape,” was a ritual that contributed to his concentration and optimal mental state for competing at the highest level.

This practice involved several steps:

Isolation - Phelps sought a quiet corner free from distractions. He often withdrew to a secluded area, away from the hustle and bustle of the main event, to completely focus on his performance.

Headphones and music - He wore headphones and listened to his personal playlist. Music helped him relax and focus his mind on his upcoming races.

Visualization - He closed his eyes and mentally imagined himself swimming the perfect race. He visualized every aspect of his performance, imagining every stroke, turn, and movement in the water. This visualization practice helped him mentally prepare and adopt a winning mindset.

Focus on headphones - By concentrating on the music, rhythm, and lyrics of the songs, Phelps found a way to block out external distractions and entirely focus on his upcoming performances.

This ritual was part of Phelps’ mental approach to competition. It allowed him to enter an optimal mental state, minimizing stress and maximizing his concentration, enabling him to excel in his races.

What a coach must know

A coach must know more than just the simple technique of their sport for several reasons:

Complete development of athletes - Knowledge limited to just the sport’s technique might not be sufficient to maximize athletes’ potential. Coaches must understand psychology, nutrition, physical preparation, and other aspects influencing athletes’ performances to provide comprehensive support and optimize their abilities.

Management of mental aspects - Sports involve not only physical ability but also the mind. Coaches must be capable of handling psychological aspects such as motivation, confidence, concentration, and stress management, all of which can significantly impact athletes’ performances.

Injury prevention - Understanding biomechanics, proper training, and recovery strategies is essential to prevent injuries and promote athletes’ health. A coach who only knows the technique might not identify injury risks correctly or suggest methodologies to prevent them.

Team building and leadership - Knowledge solely about the technique might not be enough to create a positive team environment or develop leadership skills. Coaches need to understand how to manage group dynamics, resolve conflicts, and foster cohesion to form an effective team.

Adaptability and innovation - In the sports world, strategies and tactics can evolve rapidly. Coaches must be flexible and able to adapt to changes by integrating new training methods, technologies, and approaches to remain competitive.

In conclusion, while knowledge of the sport’s technique is fundamental, a coach aiming for success and to maximize athletes’ performance must possess broad and diversified knowledge beyond mere sports technique. Integrating insights into psychological, physical, nutritional, and team management aspects is crucial in providing comprehensive support to athletes.”

Mindfulness and positive awareness of ourselves

The practice of mindfulness can be extremely helpful in focusing on one’s positive qualities and maintaining concentration on what is beautiful and significant in one’s life. Here is a potential mindfulness program to remain focused on the beautiful aspects of oneself:

  1. Breath Awareness - Start with a practice of mindful breathing. Find a quiet place, sit or lie down comfortably, and bring your attention to your breath. Notice how the air enters and leaves your body. This helps calm the mind and enter a state of presence in the present moment.
  2. Recognizing Positive Thoughts - Throughout the day, pay attention to positive thoughts about yourself. When thoughts of appreciation, gratitude, or self-love arise, take a moment to acknowledge them without judgment. You might jot them down in a journal to keep track of them.
  3. Practice Gratitude towards Oneself - Dedicate time each day to reflect on at least three things you love about yourself or are grateful for. They could be skills, personal qualities, relationships, or even small daily successes. Focus on how these positive aspects influence your life.
  4. Active Listening and Compassion - When interacting with others, practice active listening. Pay attention to what they say that’s positive about you or your actions. Even if they might be small things, accept them with gratitude and compassion toward yourself.
  5. Mindfulness in Movement - During daily activities like taking a walk, stretching, or doing household chores, be aware of your body’s movements and the sensations you experience. This helps you maintain awareness of the present moment and appreciate your physical abilities.
  6. Mindfulness in Leisure Time - When you have free time, dedicate it to yourself without external distractions. You can practice guided meditation, listen to relaxing music, read an inspiring book, or engage in activities that connect you with yourself and your passions.
  7. Daily Self-Reflection - Before going to bed, take a few minutes to reflect on the day that just passed. Observe and acknowledge the moments when you cultivated positive thoughts about yourself or practiced gratitude. This practice can help reinforce a positive mindset.
  8. Positive Visualization - Set aside time each day for visualizing yourself in positive and rewarding situations. Imagine yourself achieving your goals, feeling fully happy and fulfilled. This practice can help you create an emotional connection with your desires and goals, reinforcing a positive mindset.
  9. Cultivating Kindness Toward Oneself - Practice kindness toward yourself as you would with a dear friend. When facing difficulties or moments of self-criticism, be compassionate and kind to yourself instead of judging yourself harshly. Use reassuring and loving phrases to support yourself in challenging times.
  10. Creating an Inner Safe Space - Dedicate time each day to create an internal space of calm and serenity. This can be done through meditation, visualization, or repeating positive affirmations. This internal space becomes a place where you can retreat when you need to renew your energy and strengthen your self-confidence.

Remember that the practice of mindfulness requires time and consistency. Maintaining a kind and compassionate attitude toward yourself is essential. This program can be adapted and personalized according to your individual needs and preferences.”

Marie-Louise Eta, coach in Bundesliga

Historic news for professional soccer, Marie-Louise Eta,, will be the first woman on a Bundesliga bench in the role of deputy to Marco Grote new coach of Union Berlin. A former midfielder for Potsdam, Hamburg, Cloppenburg and Werder Bremen, Eta, 32, joined Union’s coaching staff last summer and quickly climbed the ranks. Never has a woman coached in the Bundesliga,

This is not the first time a woman has coached men, not only in soccer. In Germany it had already happened with Inka Grings, who led at Al-Gadaref’s Al-Ahly. So did Helena Costa, from Portugal, who in France was the coach of Clermont or Milagros ‘Mila’ Martinez, first in Japan and then in Mexico.

In Italy, Patrizia Panico, a former striker for Lazio and the national team (110 goals in 204 games), coached fella Fiorentina, women’s, from 2017 to 2021 and was in charge of the men’s Azzurri teams, sometimes as a deputy other as a bench holder.

In the NBA Becky Hammon became a coach and Paul Gasol commented, “In 72 years there has never been a woman head coach in the NBA… Becky Hammon can coach in the NBA. Period. I saw it in practice when she noticed problems and points more than other coaches, after that I haven’t had a bad pass all season.”

Imke Wübbenhorst‘s response, during her time on the bench of Bv Cloppenburg (Germany), to reporters who asked her if the players wore pants before she entered the locker room was remarkable: “Of course not,” she said, “I am a professional. I choose soccer players by the size of their penis.”

How do you think before an events?

Wanting to spend all your time thinking about what you are going to do, not what is going to happen. That works. I’m sure it works.

Too often athletes think about the outcome they want to achieve, they tell themselves, “I’m going to jump that measure, I’m going to take that shot, I’m going to make that point, I’m going to score a goal.” These thoughts structure the future but say nothing about what the athlete will do.

The goal is to focus on what you want to do, which corresponds to doing what you know how to do. This mental approach stimulates belief, which in turn is based precisely on positive past experiences. Thus, training in the competition period should be about mostly repeating what you know how to do; you certainly do not want to put doubts in your mind before a competition.

How many work in this way, and how many, on the other hand, until the last day are committed to making corrections? How can one have a strong belief in one’s skills if until the last day one is working on flaws?

You improve not only by perfecting your skills but also by doing more and more of what you know how to do. And how can this happen if training always poses new challenges and never emphasizes continuity?

I hope I have provided some food for thought.

The team cohesion is the key factor for a team

Managers are fired on the basis of disappointing results, but there is not always an unambiguous answer to identify the reasons for a team’s negative performance, which in this case corresponds to Napoli. In business, it is well known that the best performance is produced by individuals and teams that are motivated and well paid. In professional teams, economic aspect is not an insurmountable problem while lack of motivation is a serious problem.

The motivation displayed on the field by the team is a representation of the positive or negative coach-player relationship. There are ways to foster it that every manager should be aware of, among them: encouraging participation by listening to the players’ input, rewarding unselfish and cooperative behavior, giving everyone challenging and achievable goals, demanding and encouraging maximum effort and constantly reinforcing it, always supporting the team when it is in trouble while giving maximum effort, spending time to evaluate with the players the effort given in training and games.If this approach is not pursued, it is easy for players to start not playing as well as they know how, reducing their commitment.

Great goals are pursued only in an environment where collaboration on the field is cultivated as a valuable asset. when some significant players feel excluded by the coach usually the whole system rebels, even more so when coming from a prodigious season like the past one. The manager is the absolute leader of the team, but he cannot impose his ideas by using the process of excluding some players.

The women’s national volleyball team is another recent example of this approach. Cohesion, and victories, are not achieved by downsizing the role of key players. This formula of asserting one’s mentality at any cost is a losing example of leadership.