The impact of an extracurricular outdoor physical activity program on long-term memory in adolescent during COVID-19 pandemic


  • Francesca Latino University of Bari "Aldo Moro", Italy
  • Michele De Candia University of Bari "Aldo Moro", Italy
  • Milena Morano University of Chieti-Pescara "G. D'Annunzio", Italy
  • Roberto Carvutto University of Bari "Aldo Moro", Italy



Exercise, Cognitive functioning, Physical education, Aerobic exercise


The present study examined the effects of an 8-week extracurricular outdoor physical activity program aimed to improve long-term memory performance in adolescent concerning the Covid-19 period. Participants were 40 schoolchildren (aged 16-17) who trained twice a week in aerobic exercise two hours per session, randomly assigned to participate in either an extracurricular outdoor physical activity program (EG; n = 20) or a waitlist control group (CG; n = 20). At baseline and after training we administered the Verbal Paired Associates (VPA-I) a subtest of the Wechsler Memory Scale – IV (WMS-IV, 2009), which represents one of the most widely used instruments for assessing explicit episodic memory performance. The results suggested that after 8-week aerobic exercise program students were able to increase their long-term memory, and that this capacity was more evident following physical activity that required greater cognitive involvement.


No sources of funding were used to assist in the preparation of this manuscript


Download data is not yet available.


Alam, M.J., Kitamura, T., Saitoh, Y., Ohkawa, N., Kondo, T., & Inokuchi, K. (2018). Adult Neurogenesis Conserves Hippocampal Memory Capacity. The Journal of neuroscience: the official journal of the Society for Neuroscience, 38(31), 6854-6863.

Bekinschtein, P., Oomen, C. A., Saksida, L.M., and Bussey, T.J., (2011). Effects of environmental enrichment and voluntary exercise on neurogenesis, learning and memory, and pattern separation: BDNF as a critical variable? Seminars in Cell and Developmental Biology, 22(5): 536-542.

Bianco, A., Patti, A., Bellafiore, M., Battaglia, G., Sahin, F.N., Paoli, A., Cataldo, M.C., Mammina, c., & Palma, A. (2014). Group fitness activities for the elderly: an innovative approach to reduce falls and injuries. Aging clinical and experimental research, 26(2), 147-152.

Bidzan-Bluma, I., & Lipowska, M. (2018). Physical Activity and Cognitive Functioning of Children: A Systematic Review. International journal of environmental research and public health, 15(4), 800.

Bonavolontà, V., Cataldi, S., Conenna, A., & Fischetti, F. (2021a). Linking psycho-physical profiles to different training condition during COVID-19 confinement. Journal of Human Sport and Exercise, 16(2proc), S000-S000.

Bonavolontà, V., Greco, F., Sabatini, U., Saavedra, F.J., Fischetti, F., Baldari, C., Guidetti, L., Vaccaro, M.G., & Emerenziani, G.P. (2021b). Effects of Ballroom Dance on Physical Fitness and Reaction Time in Experienced Middle-Aged Adults of Both Genders. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 18(4), 2036.

Bonavolontà, V., Cataldi, S., Maci, D., & Fischetti, F. (2020). Physical activities and enjoyment during the lockdown: Effect of home-based supervised training among children and adolescents. Journal of Human Sport and Exercise, 15(4), 1338-1343.

Cassilhas, R.C., Tufik, S., & de Mello, M.T. (2016). Physical exercise, neuroplasticity, spatial learning and memory. Cellular and molecular life sciences: CMLS, 73(5), 975-983.

Cefis, M., Prigent-Tessier, A., Quirié, A., Pernet, N., Marie, C., & Garnier, P. (2019). The effect of exercise on memory and BDNF signaling is dependent on intensity. Brain structure & function, 224(6), 1975-1985.

Cohen, J. (1992). A Power Primer. Psychological Bulletin, 112(1), 155-159.

Colella, D., & d'Arando, C. (2021). Teaching styles and outdoor education to promote non-linear learning. JPES - Journal of Physical Education and Sport, 21(1), 507-513.

Cooper, C., Moon, H. Y., & van Praag, H. (2018). On the Run for Hippocampal Plasticity. Cold Spring Harbor perspectives in medicine, 8(4), a029736.

Donnelly, J.E., Hillman, C.H., Castelli, D., Etnier, J.L., Lee, S., Tomporowski, P., Lambourne, K., & Szabo-Reed, A.N. (2016). Physical Activity, Fitness, Cognitive Function, and Academic Achievement in Children: A Systematic Review. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 48(6), 1197-1222.

Dwyer, M.J., Pasini, M., De Dominicis, S., & Righi, E., (2020). Physical activity: Benefits and challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic. Scandinavian journal of medicine & science in sports, 30(7), 1291-1294.

Erickson, K.I., Hillman, C., Stillman, C.M., Ballard, R.M., Bloodgood, B., Conroy, D.E., Macko, R., Marquez, D.X., Petruzzello, S.J., Powell, K.E., & for 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee (2019). Physical Activity, Cognition, and Brain Outcomes: A Review of the 2018 Physical Activity Guidelines. Medicine and science in sports and exercise, 51(6), 1242-1251.

Erickson, K.I., Voss, M.W., Prakash, R.S., Basak, C., Szabo, A., Chaddock, L., Kim, J.S., Heo, S., Alves, H., White, S.M., Wojcicki, T.R., Mailey, E., Vieira, V.J., Martin, S.A., Pence, B.D., Woods, J.A., McAuley, E., & Kramer, A.F. (2011). Exercise training increases size of hippocampus and improves memory. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 108(7), 3017-3022.

Etnier, J.L., Wideman, L., Labban, J.D., Piepmeier, A.T., Pendleton, D.M., Dvorak, K.K., & Becofsky, K., (2016). The Effects of Acute Exercise on Memory and Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF). Journal of sport & exercise psychology, 38(4), 331-340.

Fischetti, F., Cataldi, S., & Greco, G. (2019a). A combined plyometric and resistance training program improves fitness performance in 12 to 14-years-old boys. Sport Sciences for Health, 15(3), 615-621.

Fischetti, F., Cataldi, S., & Greco, G. (2019b). Lower-limb plyometric training improves vertical jump and agility abilities in adult female soccer players. Journal of Physical Education and Sport, 19(2), 1254-1261.

Fischetti, F., Greco, G., Cataldi, S., Minoia, C., Loseto, G., & Guarini, A., (2019). Effects of physical exercise intervention on psychological and physical fitness in lymphoma patients. Medicina (Lithuania), 55(7).

Fleshner, M. (2000). Exercise and neuroendocrine regulation of antibody production: protective effect of physical activity on stress-induced suppression of the specific antibody response. International Journal of Sports Medicine, 21(suppl 1):S14-S19.

Fu, Y., Zhang, Y., & Yuan, Q., (2017). Aerobic exercise ameliorates learning and memory deficits of aging rats induced by D-galactose via promoting SYP and BNDF expression in hippocampus. In BIO Web Conf. 8: 01020. EDP Sciences.

Greco, G., Patti, A., Cataldi, S., Iovane, A., Messina, G., & Fischetti, F. (2019). Changes in physical fitness in young female volleyball players after an 8-week in-season pilates training program. Acta Medica Mediterranea, 35(6), 3375-3381.

Hötting, K., & Röder, B. (2013). Beneficial effects of physical exercise on neuroplasticity and cognition. Neuroscience and biobehavioral reviews, 37(9 Pt B), 2243-2257.

Jorgensen, L.G., Nowak, M., Ide, K., Secher, N.H. Cerebral blood flow and metabolism. In: Saltin B, Boushel R, Secher N, Mitchell J, eds. Exercise and Circulation in Health and Disease. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics Publishers; 2000:113-236.

Khan, N.A., & Hillman, C.H. (2014). The relation of childhood physical activity and aerobic fitness to brain function and cognition: a review. Pediatric exercise science, 26(2), 138-146.

Knight. Forest School and Outdoor Learning in the Early Years. SAGE Publications Ltd, 2013.

Labban, J.D., & Etnier, J.L. (2018). The Effect of Acute Exercise on Encoding and Consolidation of Long-Term Memory. Journal of sport & exercise psychology, 40(6), 336-342.

Lahart, I., Darcy, P., Gidlow, C., & Calogiuri, G. (2019). The Effects of Green Exercise on Physical and Mental Wellbeing: A Systematic Review. International journal of environmental research and public health, 16(8), 1352.

Latino, F., Cataldi, S., Fischetti, F. (2021). Effects of a Coordinative Ability Training Program on Adolescents' Cognitive Functioning. Frontiers In Psychology - 12, pp.1-8. ISSN:1664.

Latino, F., Greco, G., Fischetti, F., & Cataldi, S. (2019). Multilateral training improves body image perception in female adolescents. Journal of Human Sport and Exercise, 14(Proc4), S927-S936.

Leal, G., Bramham, C.R., & Duarte, C.B., (2017). BDNF and Hippocampal Synaptic Plasticity. Vitamins and hormones, 104, 153-195.

Lesser, I.A., & Nienhuis, C.P. (2020). The Impact of COVID-19 on Physical Activity Behavior and Well-Being of Canadians. International journal of environmental research and public health, 17(11), 3899.

Loprinzi, P.D., McRaney, K., Luca, K., & McDonald, A. (2019). Exercise and Episodic Specificity Induction on Episodic Memory Function. Medicina (Kaunas, Lithuania), 55(8), 422.

Loprinzi, P.D., Moore, D., & Loenneke, J.P. (2020). Does Aerobic and Resistance Exercise Influence Episodic Memory through Unique Mechanisms?. Brain sciences, 10(12), 913.

McEwen, S.C., Siddarth, P., Rahi, B., Kim, Y., Mui, W., Wu, P., Emerson, N.D., Lee, J., Greenberg, S., Shelton, T., Kaiser, S., Small, G.W., & Merrill, D.A. (2018). Simultaneous Aerobic Exercise and Memory Training Program in Older Adults with Subjective Memory Impairments. Journal of Alzheimer's disease: JAD, 62(2), 795-806.

Morano, M., Robazza, C., Ruiz, M. C., Cataldi, S., Fischetti, F., & Bortoli, L. (2020). Gender-typed sport practice, physical self-perceptions, and performance-related emotions in adolescent girls. Sustainability (Switzerland), 12(20), 1-13.

Notarnicola, A., Vicenti, G., Fischetti, F., Laricchia, L., Guastamacchia, R., Tafuri, S., & Moreti, B. (2012). Improved mental representation of space in beginner orienteers. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 114(1), 250-260.

Park, S., Kim, B., & Lee, J. (2020). Social Distancing and Outdoor Physical Activity During the COVID-19 Outbreak in South Korea: Implications for Physical Distancing Strategies. Asia-Pacific journal of public health, 32(6-7), 360-362.

Patti, A., Zangla, D., Sahin, F. N., Cataldi, S., Lavanco, G., Palma, A., & Fischetti, F. (2021). Physical exercise and prevention of falls. effects of a pilates training method compared with a general physical activity program: A randomized controlled trial. Medicine, 100(13), e25289.

Pesce, C., Crova, C., Cereatti, L., Casella, R., & Bellucci, M. (2009). Physical activity and mental performance in preadolescents: Effects of acute exercise on free-recall memory. Mental Health and Physical Activity, 2(1), 16-22.

Pinho, C. S., Caria, A., Aras Júnior, R., & Pitanga, F. (2020). The effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on levels of physical fitness. Revista da Associacao Medica Brasileira (1992), 66Suppl 2(Suppl 2), 34-37.

Pyke, W., Ifram, F., Coventry, L., Sung, Y., Champion, I., & Javadi, A.H. (2020). The effects of different protocols of physical exercise and rest on long-term memory. Neurobiology of learning and memory, 167, 107128.

Raiola, G., Aliberti, S., Esposito, G., Altavilla, G., D'Isanto, T., & D'Elia, F., (2020). How has the Practice of Physical Activity Changed During the COVID-19 Quarantine? A Preliminary Survey. Teorìâ ta Metodika Fìzičnogo Vihovannâ, 20 (4), 242-247.

Roberts, C. E., Phillips, L. H., Cooper, C. L., Gray, S., & Allan, J. L. (2017). Effect of Different Types of Physical Activity on Activities of Daily Living in Older Adults: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Journal of aging and physical activity, 25(4), 653-670.

Saucedo Marquez, C.M., Vanaudenaerde, B., Troosters, T., & Wenderoth, N., (2015). Highintensity interval training evokes larger serum BDNF levels compared with intense continuous exercise. Journal of Applied Physiology, 119(12): 1363-1373.

Schmidt-Kassow, M., Schädle, S., Otterbein, S., Thiel, C., Doehring, A., Lötsch, J., and Kaiser, J. 2012. Kinetics of serum brain-derived neurotrophic factor following low-intensity versus high-intensity exercise in men and women. Neuroreport, 23(15): 889-893.

Singh, A.S., Saliasi, E., van den Berg, V., Uijtdewilligen, L., de Groot, R., Jolles, J., Andersen, L.B., Bailey, R., Chang, Y.K., Diamond, A., Ericsson, I., Etnier, J.L., Fedewa, A.L., Hillman, C.H., McMorris, T., Pesce, C., Pühse, U., Tomporowski, P.D., & Chinapaw, M., (2019). Effects of physical activity interventions on cognitive and academic performance in children and adolescents: a novel combination of a systematic review and recommendations from an expert panel. British journal of sports medicine, 53(10), 640-647.

Suwabe, K., Hyodo, K., Byun, K., Ochi, G., Fukuie, T., Shimizu, T., Kato, M., Yassa, M. A., & Soya, H. (2017). Aerobic fitness associates with mnemonic discrimination as a mediator of physical activity effects: evidence for memory flexibility in young adults. Scientific reports, 7(1), 5140.

Thompson Coon, J., Boddy, K., Stein, K., Whear, R., Barton, J., & Depledge, M.H., (2011). Does participating in physical activity in outdoor natural environments have a greater effect on physical and mental wellbeing than physical activity indoors? A systematic review. Environmental science & technology, 45(5), 1761-1772.

Voelcker-Rehage, C., & Niemann, C., (2013). Structural and functional brain changes related to different types of physical activity across the life span. Neuroscience and biobehavioral reviews, 37(9 Pt B), 2268-2295.

Voss, M.W., Soto, C., Yoo, S., Sodoma, M., Vivar, C., & van Praag, H. (2019). Exercise and Hippocampal Memory Systems. Trends in cognitive sciences, 23(4), 318-333.

Wechsler, D. (2009). Wechsler Memory Scale - Fourth Edition (WMS-IV) technical and interpretive manual. San Antonio, TX: Pearson.

WHO guidelines on physical activity and sedentary behaviour: at a glance. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2020. Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO. ISBN 978-92-4-001487-9 (print version).

Williams, A.M., Davis, K., & Williams, J.G. (2000). Visual perception and action in sport. London: Spon Press. pp. 96-142.

Wray, A., Martin, G., Ostermeier, E., Medeiros, A., Little, M., Reilly, K., & Gilliland, J. (2020). Physical activity and social connectedness interventions in outdoor spaces among children and youth: a rapid review. Interventions pour favoriser l'activité physique et l'appartenance sociale chez les enfants et les jeunes dans des espaces extérieurs: revue rapide de la littérature. Health promotion and chronic disease prevention in Canada: research, policy and practice, 40(4), 104-115.

Xiang, M., Zhang, Z., & Kuwahara, K. (2020). Impact of COVID-19 pandemic on children and adolescents' lifestyle behavior larger than expected. Progress in cardiovascular diseases, 63(4), 531-532.

Zuniga, K.E., Mueller, M., Santana, A. R., & Kelemen, W.L. (2019). Acute aerobic exercise improves memory across intensity and fitness levels. Memory (Hove, England), 27(5), 628-636.


Statistics RUA



How to Cite

Latino, F., De Candia, M., Morano, M., & Carvutto, R. (2021). The impact of an extracurricular outdoor physical activity program on long-term memory in adolescent during COVID-19 pandemic. Journal of Human Sport and Exercise, 16(3proc), S1114-S1125.

Most read articles by the same author(s)