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» Role of Childhood Aerobic Fitness in Successful Street Crossing

Role of Childhood Aerobic Fitness in Successful Street Crossing


1Department of Psychology, University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, Urbana, IL; 2Beckman Institute, University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, Urbana, IL; 3Department of Psychology, University of Central Florida, Orlando, FL; and 4Department of Kinesiology & Community Health, University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, Urbana, IL

Increased aerobic fitness is associated with improved cognition, brain health, and academic achievement during preadolescence.  Purpose:  In this study, we extended these findings by examining the role of childhood aerobic fitness on an everyday real world task, street crossing.  Because street crossing can be a dangerous multitask challenge and is a leading cause of injury in children, it is important to find ways to improve pedestrian safety.  Method:  A street intersection was modeled in a virtual environment, and higher-fit (N=13, 7 boys) and lower-fit (N=13, 5 boys) 8-10 year-old children, as determined by VO2 max testing, navigated trafficked roads by walking on a treadmill that was integrated with an immersive virtual world.  Child pedestrians crossed the street while undistracted, listening to music, or conversing on a hands-free cellular phone.  Results: Cell phones impaired street crossing success rates compared to the undistracted or music conditions for all participants (p=0.004), a result that supports previous research.  However, individual differences in aerobic fitness influenced these patterns (fitness x condition interaction, p=0.003).  Higher-fit children maintained street crossing success rates across all three conditions (paired t-tests, all p > 0.4), while lower-fit children showed decreased success rates when on the phone, relative to the undistracted (p=0.018) and music (p=0.019) conditions.  Conclusion: The results suggest that higher levels of childhood aerobic fitness may attenuate the impairment typically associated with multitasking during street crossing.  It is possible that superior cognitive abilities of higher-fit children play a role in the performance differences during complex real world tasks.