Event Abstract

The effects of acute exercise on executive functioning, mood and attention

  • 1 Southern Cross University, Psychology, School of Health and Human Sciences, Australia

Aims: It is internationally recognised that exercise is beneficial—both physically and mentally. However, only a minority of published research has explored the unique contribution of the exercise task itself. We tested the effect an ‘acute bout of moderate exercise’ had on selective attention, executive function and mood. We hypothesised that acute exercise would improve mood and cognitive performance compared to the controls. Method: 29 females and 11 males aged between 18-50 (M=26.5, SD=8.8) were administered the Stroop Colour-Interference Test, Erikson Flanker Task and Positive and Negative Affect Scale (PANAS).  Participants were randomly assigned to one of two conditions (exercise or relaxation). The experimental group (N=20) performed 20 minutes of exercise on a treadmill. The control group (N=20) relaxed for 20 minutes. Measures were taken before and after the intervention. Results: An independent samples t-test compared the differences between post-test and pre-test for the two groups. Results revealed a significant difference between the exercise group and control group on the measures of mood. The exercise group reported increased positive affect (t(38) = 3.10, p = .004, d = .99) and decreased negative affect (t(38) = -3.24, p = .003, d = 1.0) on the post-test. No significant differences between the exercise and control groups were obtained for the two tasks of cognitive performance. Conclusions: A significant difference in the PANAS ratings following exercise offers strong support to earlier research demonstrating that acute exercise improves mood. Although no significant improvement in performance was observed in the two cognitive tasks following acute exercise, it is possible that fitness levels could be the relevant factor, rather than acute exercise as a task. Our findings did not support the hypothesis that acute exercise improves cognitive performance.

Keywords: Affect, Attention, Acute Exercise, executive functioning, Stroop task, Eriksen Flanker task, Regular Exercise

Conference: 12th Annual Psychology Research Conference, 2015, Coffs Harbour, Australia, 25 Sep - 26 Sep, 2015.

Presentation Type: Research

Topic: Psychology

Citation: Ostler A and Bowling A (2015). The effects of acute exercise on executive functioning, mood and attention. Front. Psychol. Conference Abstract: 12th Annual Psychology Research Conference, 2015. doi: 10.3389/conf.fpsyg.2015.66.00027

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Received: 23 Sep 2015; Published Online: 23 Sep 2015.

* Correspondence: Ms. Ashryn Ostler, Southern Cross University, Psychology, School of Health and Human Sciences, Coffs Harbour, NSW, 2450, Australia, a.ostler.10@student.scu.edu.au