The following is a summary of “Adherence to Screen Time and Physical Activity Guidelines is Associated with Executive Function in US Toddlers Participating in the STRONG Kids 2 Birth Cohort Study,” published in the JANUARY 2023 issue of Pediatrics by McMath, et al.

For a study, researchers sought to test the idea that having a healthy weight and following the American Academy of Pediatrics’ (AAP’s) recommendations for nutrition and exercise will lead to improved executive function (EF) at the age of 24 months.

The Behavioral Rating Inventory of Executive Function for Preschoolers (BRIEF-P) was completed by parents of 24-month-old children from the STRONG Kids 2 cohort research (n = 352), who also provided information about their children’s food, screen time, and physical activity. Toddlers who ingested at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables, engaged in physical activity, abstained from beverages with added sugar, and limited their daily screen time to no more than 60 minutes were considered to be meeting AAP criteria. Independent of child sex, ethnicity, socioeconomic background, weight at birth, or mother pregnancy weight status, relationships between EF, 24-month weight status, and following AAP standards were examined.

The weight-for-length z-score had no impact on EF. Indicated by lower BRIEF-P scores, toddlers who fulfilled the recommended screen time exhibited higher EF (β, −0.125; 95% CI, 0.234 to −0.008), inhibitory self-control (β, −0.142; 95% CI, −0.248 to −0.029), and emergent metacognition (β, −0.111; 95% CI, −0.221 to 0.002). More screen time was associated with worse overall EF (β, 0.257; 95% CI, 0.118-0.384), inhibitory self-control (β, 0.231; 95% CI, 0.099-0.354), cognitive flexibility (β, 0.217; 95% CI, 0.082-0.342), and emergent metacognition (β, 0.257; 95% CI, 0.120-0.381). Daily physical activity was linked to higher emergent metacognition (β, −0.116; 95% CI, −0.225 to −0.005).

In a group of children with similar demographics, following the AAP recommendations for screen time and physical exercise was linked to higher EF. To establish the directionality of the link, additional varied samples and upcoming randomized control experiments were required.