A. de Miguel,C. Luedecker, D. Wattenbarger, Y. Wolday, W.M. Silvers

Whitworth University, Spokane, WA

Exercise has been proposed to enhance cognitive abilities and the empirical evidence to support its efficacy has grown. A single bout of aerobic exercise, performed at a moderate intensity, may elicit the greatest improvements on cognition. PURPOSE: The purpose of this study was to determine the effect of an acute bout of moderate intensity aerobic exercise on specific components of executive function. METHODS: Thirty physically active, college-aged males (n = 10) and females (n = 20) completed this study. Participants performed both an exercise (EX) and a control condition (CON) on two separate days followed by two cognitive tests. The Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test (RAVLT) measured working memory, which includes immediate recall (IR) and delayed recall (DR); the Stroop test (ST) measured selective attention. For the EX condition, participants exercised for 20 min. Participants’ heart rate (HR) was monitored throughout the session to ensure moderate intensity (65 % to 70 % of maximum HR). In the CON condition, participants read a sports magazine for 20 min. Paired t-tests (p≤ 0.05) were utilized to inferentially compare the experimental conditions for all dependent variables. RESULTS: Descriptive data included IR (CON: 9.5 ± 1.9 words; EX: 10.3 ± 1.5 words), ST (CON: 16.8 ± 2.7 s; EX: 16.2 ± 3.1 s), and DR (CON: 9.9 ± 2.5 words; EX: 10.4 ± 3.1 words). A statistical difference was found between EX and CON conditions for IR (p = 0.008), but not for DR or ST (p > 0.05). CONCLUSIONS: Under these research conditions, IR was the only measure that improved significantly, perhaps because the exercise-induced neurophysiological changes did not persist long enough to last the entirety of the testing session. Twenty min after cessation of exercise, the neurophysiological parameters returned to a homeostatic state, which may have led to nonsignificant differences on DR task performance. Furthermore, the differences in fitness level among participants may have affected ST performance. Researchers in the future should repeat the present study design with a larger sample size and a more homogeneous fitness level across participants. Additionally, researchers should take into account the time elapsed between the cessation of exercise and cognitive testing and use a testing area with limited external auditory and visual stimuli.

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