Benefits of regular aerobic exercise for executive functioning in healthy populations

Department of Psychology and Brain Health Research Centre, University of Otago, PO Box 56, Dunedin, 9054, New Zealand.
Psychonomic Bulletin & Review (Impact Factor: 2.99). 12/2012; 20(1). DOI: 10.3758/s13423-012-0345-4
Source: PubMed


Research suggests that regular aerobic exercise has the potential to improve executive functioning, even in healthy populations. The purpose of this review is to elucidate which components of executive functioning benefit from such exercise in healthy populations. In light of the developmental time course of executive functions, we consider separately children, young adults, and older adults. Data to date from studies of aging provide strong evidence of exercise-linked benefits related to task switching, selective attention, inhibition of prepotent responses, and working memory capacity; furthermore, cross-sectional fitness data suggest that working memory updating could potentially benefit as well. In young adults, working memory updating is the main executive function shown to benefit from regular exercise, but cross-sectional data further suggest that task-switching and posterror performance may also benefit. In children, working memory capacity has been shown to benefit, and cross-sectional data suggest potential benefits for selective attention and inhibitory control. Although more research investigating exercise-related benefits for specific components of executive functioning is clearly needed in young adults and children, when considered across the age groups, ample evidence indicates that regular engagement in aerobic exercise can provide a simple means for healthy people to optimize a range of executive functions.

62 Reads
    • "Previous research suggests that cognitive function is enhanced when individuals work in a standing as opposed to a seated position (Ebara et al., 2008). Other research suggests that increased levels of physical activity are associated with improvements to cognitive functions, such as task switching, selective attention, inhibitory control, and working memory (Guiney & Machado, 2013) and that cognitive function improves immediately following cessation of physical activity (Barella et al., 2010; Etnier et "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Objective: In the present study, we examined the effect of working while seated, while standing, or while walking on measures of short-term memory, working memory, selective and sustained attention, and information-processing speed. Background: The advent of computer-based technology has revolutionized the adult workplace, such that average adult full-time employees spend the majority of their working day seated. Prolonged sitting is associated with increasing obesity and chronic health conditions in children and adults. One possible intervention to reduce the negative health impacts of the modern office environment involves modifying the workplace to increase incidental activity and exercise during the workday. Although modifications, such as sit-stand desks, have been shown to improve physiological function, there is mixed information regarding the impact of such office modification on individual cognitive performance and thereby the efficiency of the work environment. Method: In a fully counterbalanced randomized control trial, we assessed the cognitive performance of 45 undergraduate students for up to a 1-hr period in each condition. Results: The results indicate that there is no significant change in the measures used to assess cognitive performance associated with working while seated, while standing, or while walking at low intensity. Conclusion: These results indicate that cognitive performance is not degraded with short-term use of alternate workstations.
    Human Factors The Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society 09/2015; online first. DOI:10.1177/0018720815605446 · 1.69 Impact Factor
  • Source
    • "Physical activity also affects synaptogenesis, which occurs concomitantly with myelination, and angiogenesis, which influences glucose and oxygen distribution (Ding et al., 2006; Kerr, Steuer, Pochtarev, & Swain, 2010). All of the above can account for improved cognitive ability following exercise over time (Guiney & Machado, 2013). Given that executive functions have been reported to be essential for everyday life (Jackson, Loxton, Harnett, Ciarrochi, & Gullo, 2014; Murray, Pattie, Starr, & Deary, 2012) and associated with well-being (e.g., Brissos, Dias, & Kapczinski, 2008; Cruise et al., 2011), evidence concerning the benefits of physical activity on well-being may imply that physical activity also contributes to the performance of executive functions. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: This study examined whether physical activity improves spatial perception and attention in early childhood. A pre–post intervention trials design with intervention and control groups was implemented. Participants were 123 kindergarten children, divided into three groups: experimental—orienteering, experimental—dance, and control—no intervention. Instrumentations: attention measured by the MOXO-CPT, a computerized test, and The Cognitive Modifiability Battery Reproduction of Patterns measured spatial abilities. Measurements were conducted pre-and post-interventions. Results showed fast improvement from pre-to post-intervention, achieved simultaneously in both EFs for the experimental groups only. No differences were found between boys and girls. It was concluded that in order to successfully achieve the required tasks, an integration of physical and cognitive skills is needed.
    Cognitive Development 09/2015; 36:31-39. DOI:10.1016/j.cogdev.2015.08.003 · 1.73 Impact Factor
    • "It is known that EF are not fully developed in children and adolescents [5] and decay earlier than low-level functions with increasing age [6]. Aging research shows that lifestyle factors such as physical exercise influence EF [7]. The maturation of the cerebral cortex (including the frontal lobes), which takes place until late adolescence, is characterized by dynamic changes of metabolism. "
    [Show abstract] [Hide abstract]
    ABSTRACT: Objective: Studies indicate that eating lunch impairs some aspects of adults' cognitive functioning. However, the short-term effects of lunch on children's executive functions (EF) have not been examined. The Cognition Intervention Study Dortmund PLUS (CogniDo PLUS) investigated (a) short-term effects of lunch on EF in children and (b) whether the postprandial cortisol increase mediates putative lunch effects on EF performance. Methods: 5th and 6th grade students of a comprehensive school in Gelsenkirchen (Germany) participated in the randomized crossover intervention study. On Day 1 of the study, Group 1 did not eat lunch, whereas Group 2 received lunch ad libitum. One week later on Day 2 the groups were treated vice versa. At the beginning of the afternoon lessons, the EF parameters task switching, working memory updating and inhibition were tested using a computerized test battery. Saliva samples were used to measure cortisol directly before lunch and again at the beginning of the cognitive assessment. Of the 215 initially recruited children 21 dropped out of the study due to illness or absence on one of the two test days. Results: Lower ratios of false alarms in the working memory updating function were observed when children who ate lunch than for children who had no lunch (8.2% (lunch) versus 9.4% (no lunch), p<0.01). Parameters of task switching and inhibition did not differ between children who ate lunch compared to children who had no lunch. Stratification according to postprandial cortisol increase showed that the subgroup with a high increase had lower ratios of false alarms after eating lunch, while false alarm values did not change in the group with a low increase. Conclusion: In contrast to findings in adults, the results indicate that children's EF are not impaired by lunch under true-to-life conditions. On the contrary, the current study even indicates beneficial effects of lunch intake for the working memory updating. The postprandial cortisol increase in the range observed in our sample does not seem to be related with negative effects on the performance of EF, but even seem to mediate the beneficial effect of lunch on the working memory updating.
    Physiology & Behavior 09/2015; 152. DOI:10.1016/j.physbeh.2015.09.025 · 2.98 Impact Factor
Show more