The Acute Effects of Yoga on Executive Function.

Dept of Kinesiology and Community Health, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.
Journal of Physical Activity and Health (Impact Factor: 1.95). 05/2013; 10(4):488-495.
Source: PubMed


Despite an increase in the prevalence of yoga exercise, research focusing on the relationship between yoga exercise and cognition is limited. The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of an acute yoga exercise session, relative to aerobic exercise, on cognitive performance.

A repeated measures design was employed where 30 female college-aged participants (Mean age = 20.07, SD = 1.95) completed 3 counterbalanced testing sessions: a yoga exercise session, an aerobic exercise session, and a baseline assessment. The flanker and n-back tasks were used to measure cognitive performance.

Results showed that cognitive performance after the yoga exercise bout was significantly superior (ie, shorter reaction times, increased accuracy) as compared with the aerobic and baseline conditions for both inhibition and working memory tasks. The aerobic and baseline performance was not significantly different, contradicting some of the previous findings in the acute aerobic exercise and cognition literature.

These findings are discussed relative to the need to explore the effects of other nontraditional modes of exercise such as yoga on cognition and the importance of time elapsed between the cessation of the exercise bout and the initiation of cognitive assessments in improving task performance.

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Available from: Neha Gothe, Mar 13, 2015
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    • "Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine tests of mathematics, science, and social studies [14]. Two preliminary studies of college students also suggest beneficial effects of mind-body practices on cumulative GPA [15] and cognitive performance [16]. Several qualitative studies have also found associations between school-based mind-body interventions and perceived improvements in restful alertness , ability to focus attention, keeping on task at school [17], as well as enhanced academic achievement [18], reductions in academic stress, improved attitudes toward school, and enhanced concentration [19]. "
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    ABSTRACT: This study involves an exploratory examination of the effects of a 12-week school-based yoga intervention on changes in grade point average (GPA) in 9th and 10th grade students. Participants included 95 high school students who had registered for physical education (PE) in spring 2010. PE class sections were group randomized to receive either a yoga intervention or a PE-as-usual control condition. The yoga intervention took place during the entire third quarter and half of the fourth quarter of the school year, and quarterly GPA was collected via school records at the end of the school year. Results revealed a significant interaction between group and quarter suggesting that GPA differed between the yoga and control groups over time. Post hoc tests revealed that while both groups exhibited a general decline in GPA over the school year, the control group exhibited a significantly greater decline in GPA from quarter 1 to quarter 3 than the yoga group. Both groups showed equivalent declines in GPA in quarter 4 after the yoga intervention had ended. The results suggest that yoga may have a protective effect on academic performance by preventing declines in GPA; however these preventive effects may not persist once yoga practice is discontinued.
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    • "The majority of research has focused on the acute effects of aerobic and strengthening exercises on cognitive performance. However, recently alternate forms of exercise have also been investigated (Field et al., 2010; Gothe et al., 2013). In the current study, we planned to address this gap in the knowledge by measuring the acute effects of martial art exercise on cognitive performance in middle-aged adults. "
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    Full-text · Article · Sep 2015 · Journal of Human Kinetics
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    • "We included both moderate-intensity treadmill walking and cycle ergometry as aerobic exercise stimuli based on previous research in the general population that describes improvements in executive control in response to acute bouts of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise (McMorris & Hale, 2012; McMorris, Sproule, Turner, & Hale, 2011). We included guided yoga as a nonaerobic exercise stimulus based on its presumably beneficial effects on executive control in the general population (Gothe et al., 2013). We compared the individual effects of each exercise condition with quiet rest on executive control measures as a first effort for delineating an exercise stimulus for improving cognition in a subsequent exercise training intervention. "
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    ABSTRACT: Introduction: Cognitive impairment is a highly prevalent, disabling, and poorly managed consequence of multiple sclerosis (MS). Exercise training represents a promising approach for managing cognitive impairment in this population. However, there is limited evidence supporting an optimal exercise stimulus for improving cognition in MS. The current study compared the acute effects of moderate-intensity treadmill walking, moderate-intensity cycle ergometry, and guided yoga with those of quiet rest on executive control in 24 persons with relapsing-remitting MS without impaired cognitive processing speed using a within-subjects, repeated measures design. Method: Participants completed four experimental conditions that consisted of 20 minutes of moderate-intensity treadmill walking exercise, moderate-intensity cycle ergometer exercise, guided yoga, and quiet rest in a randomized, counterbalanced order. Participants underwent a modified-flanker task as a measure of executive control immediately prior to and following each condition. Results: Repeated measures analyses of variance (ANOVAs) indicated general pre-to-post improvements in reaction time, but not accuracy, on the modified-flanker task for all three exercise modalities compared with quiet rest. However, there were additional, selective pre-to-post reductions in the cost of interfering stimuli on reaction time on the modified-flanker task for treadmill walking, F(1, 23) = 4.67, p = .04, η(p)2 = .17, but not cycle ergometry, F(1, 23) = 0.12, p = .73, η(p)2 < .01, or guided yoga, F(1, 23) = 0.73, p = .40, η(p)2 = .03, compared with quiet rest. Conclusions: The present results support treadmill walking as the modality of exercise that might exert the largest beneficial effects on executive control in persons with relapsing-remitting MS without impaired cognitive processing speed. This represents an exciting starting point for delineating the appropriate exercise stimulus (i.e., modality and intensity) for inclusion in a subsequent longitudinal exercise training intervention for improving cognitive performance in this population.
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