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Systematic Review ARTICLE Provisionally accepted The full-text will be published soon. Notify me

Front. Psychol. | doi: 10.3389/fpsyg.2019.02616

Effects and moderators of acute aerobic exercise on subsequent interference control: a systematic review and meta-analysis Running title: Acute exercise and interference control

  • 1German Sport University Cologne, Germany
  • 2Institute of Cardiology and Sports Medicine, German Sport University Cologne, Germany
  • 3Faculty of Medicine, University of Cologne, Germany

Background: Acute aerobic exercise leads to positive physiological adaptations within the central nervous system. These findings inspired research on potential cognitive benefits following acute aerobic exercise. The effects of acute aerobic exercise on subsequent cognitive performance, by far, have been the most researched for interference control, a subcomponent of executive function. The results of primary studies on the effects of acute aerobic exercise on subsequent interference control performance are inconsistent. Therefore, we used meta-analytic methods to pool available effect sizes, and to identify covariates that determine the magnitude of exercise-induced interference control benefits.
Methods: Medline, PsycINFO and SPORTDiscus were searched for eligible records. Hedges’ g corrected standardized mean difference values (SMDs) were used for analyses. Random-effects weights were used to pool effect sizes. Moderator analyses were conducted using meta-regressions and subgroups analyses. Covariates that were here tested for moderation included parameters of the applied exercise regimen (exercise intensity and exercise duration), characteristics of examined participants (age and fitness), and methodological features of existing research (type of control group, familiarization with test procedure, type of test variable, delay between exercise cessation and testing).
Results: Fifty studies, with data from 4,446 participants, were included in qualitative and quantitative synthesis. A small, significant beneficial effect of acute aerobic exercise on time-dependent measures of interference control was revealed (k=49, Hedges’ g = -.26, 95%CI: -34 to -.18). Effect sizes from time-dependent measures of interference control varied widely and heterogeneity reached statistical significance (T2=.0557, I2=28.8%). Moderator analyses revealed that exercise intensity, participants’ age, and familiarization with cognitive testing procedure significantly influenced the magnitude of effects.
Conclusion: Acute aerobic exercise improves subsequent interference control performance. However, several covariates determine the magnitude of that effect. It was revealed that higher exercise intensities (vigorous intensity and high-intensity interval training), also participants at younger or older age, and participants who are familiar with the testing procedure prior to the experiment, benefitted most from acute aerobic exercise. The fact that methodological features were not found to influence the magnitude of effects, dismisses some doubts that exercise induced benefits for interference control performance are scientific artefacts.

Keywords: Exercise, physical activity, Cognition, interference control, Stroop, flanker

Received: 23 Sep 2019; Accepted: 05 Nov 2019.

Copyright: © 2019 Oberste, Javelle, Sharma, Joisten, Walzik, Bloch and Zimmer. This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction in other forums is permitted, provided the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication in this journal is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.

* Correspondence: Mr. Max Oberste, German Sport University Cologne, Cologne, Germany, m.oberste@dshs-koeln.de