The effect of vigorous intensity acute exercise on executive function

  • Phillips D
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Abstract

The effect of physical activity (PA) and consequent influence on cognition within adult seniors has been widely published. However, there is a paucity of causal research relating PA and cognition to schoolchildren within an authentic setting. Also, little is known about the required intensity and dosage of PA to effect executive function (EF) change, or an optimal time for increased learning posttreatment. The primary aim of this study was to measure the effect of vigorous intensity acute exercise (VIAE) on mathematics test performance in a school setting, with the secondary aims of the study determining the effect of vigorous intensity acute exercise on trails test performance, and to consider whether there is an optimal time for learning post-PA. Participants included 72 (males n =44) 8th graders from an urban middle school. Participants were split into two order groups that received both a single 20-minute bout of PA and a single bout of sedentary activity (SA) over a 2-week period. Four different math tests consisting of 10 previously validated questions were completed 30-minutes and 45-minutes post-PA and SA. Two Trails Making Tests (A and B) were completed 20 and 25 minutes post-PA. During the PA bout, participants wore heart rate monitors to ensure work rate remained within the vigorous intensity zone as set using the CDC (2011) guidelines. Repeated measures ANOVA showed a significant interaction between treatment and mathematics tests scores F (1, 68) = 14.420, p < 0.001, d = .9, power of .963. Simple main effects for both genders were most significant at 30 minutes post-PA (male, p = 0.02, and females, p = 0.06) when compared to the other math tests mean scores at different time points. Due to order effects and normality violations, one can suggest, with caution, that an acute bout of vigorous intensity PA can help schoolchildren to become better prepared for math test performance. This may influence the amount and timing of PA opportunities throughout the school day. More research in an authentic setting is needed in order to compliment the literature.

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Authors

  • David Spencer Phillips

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