The effects of acute aerobic exercise on cognition among young adults

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Ryan Anthony Stermer (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Jennifer Etnier

Abstract: Acute exercise has been shown to provide beneficial effects on cognitive performance in young adult samples. More specifically, acute exercise has benefits for executive function (EF) which is an umbrella term for high-level cognitive processes necessary for goal-directed cognition and behaviors. These high-level processes are inhibitory control, planning, set shifting, and working memory (WM). In the literature there seems to be a general trend around studies looking at EF and acute exercise. Previous research tends to focus on one component of EF, such as inhibitory control, with only a few empirical studies looking at set-shifting or WM. This focus is a limitation of the literature as expressed in a review by Ludyga, Gerber, Brand, Holsboer-Trachsler, and Pühse (2016). This limitation does not allow the extension of knowledge around the extent to which exercise impacts multiple EF measures. Young adult samples are often utilized for exercise and EF research in the university setting. This setting is not only a centralized area from which to recruit the target sample, but the university draws people from various backgrounds which can better represent the population. The high demands of young adults in higher education, professional training, and work are areas in which higher demands of the EF system are needed. By understanding the relationship of exercise in higher education, we will be better equipped to expand our understanding of the impact that exercise can have on EF in this age group. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to investigate the changes of EF after an acute bout of exercise in college-aged young adults (18-30) using a word recognition memory task, flanker task, and a WM task. The present study was part of a larger study regarding cognition and exercise. For this study, I hypothesized that exercise would beneficially affect RT and accuracy specific to each task. Results indicated that the variable time (pre, post) had a significant effect on reaction time (RT) for the flanker (congruent and incongruent trials) and the dot task. Regarding memory, there was a significant interaction effect for response accuracy. Results from this study show that condition (exercise, rest) did not have a significant effect on cognitive performance (RT, accuracy) for the memory task. Whereas, individuals improved their RT from pre-test to post-test for the dots and flanker tasks. These findings tell us that, regardless of certain measures utilized to test cognitive performance, condition (exercise, rest) had no effect on cognitive performance.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2019
Acute Exercise, Aerobic, Cognition, Executive Function, Memory, Young Adults
Cognition $x Effect of exercise on
Aerobic exercises $x Psychological aspects
Executive functions (Neuropsychology)
College students $x Psychology

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