International Journal of Exercise Science 13(5): 1650-1666, 2020. Several studies suggest that acute bouts of exercise improve executive function in preadolescent children. However, the mechanisms underlying these effects are not completely understood. Specifically, no studies have examined the relationship between the stress hormone response to exercise and improvements in executive function in preadolescent children. The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of a bout of moderate intensity exercise versus rest on working memory (List Sorting Working Memory Task) and selective inhibition/attention (Eriksen flanker task) in preadolescent children, as well as to investigate whether changes in stress hormones (salivary cortisol and alpha-amylase) could explain any differences in performance on these tasks. Twenty-four children completed both a 30-minute moderate intensity bout of treadmill walking and seated rest in a laboratory setting. Tests of executive function and salivary stress hormone analyses were completed before and after each condition. 2x2 Repeated Measures ANOVAs were used to test the effects of time, condition, and time*condition on all executive function and hormonal outcomes. Linear regression models were used to determine if changes in executive function measures were related to changes in stress hormones in the exercise condition. Likely due to methodological limitations, there were no effects of time, condition, nor an interactive effect on working memory, selective inhibition, salivary cortisol, or salivary alpha-amylase. However, there was a trend observed, where the magnitude of the increase in salivary alpha-amylase levels in the exercise condition marginally predicted the improvement in reaction time on the Eriksen flanker task. This suggests that exercise-induced changes in alpha-amylase may underlie improvements in executive function and highlights the need for additional research to more fully understand these relationships in preadolescent children.
Ebisuzaki, Brian T.; Riemen, Nicholas D.; Bettencourt, Kory M.; Gonzalez, Lupita M.; Bennion, Kelly A.; and Greever, Cory J.
"No Change in Executive Function or Stress Hormones Following a Bout of Moderate Treadmill Exercise in Preadolescent Children,"
International Journal of Exercise Science: Vol. 13
5, Pages 1650 - 1666.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.wku.edu/ijes/vol13/iss5/12