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Jennifer L. Etnier and Yu-Kai Chang

The purpose of the present commentary is to introduce relevant issues with respect to the measurement of executive function in physical activity studies. Suggested definitions of executive function are introduced, and executive function tasks that are commonly used in the neuropsychological literature are presented and briefly described. The extant literature on physical activity and cognition is discussed, and issues relative to the limitations of this body of literature are raised. In summary, research on the effect of physical activity on executive function is still in its infancy. We encourage researchers in this field to provide a clear definition of executive function, to carefully consider the relevance of published effect sizes to their own research questions, and to consider either providing a logical rationale for their selection of particular executive function measures or to use multiple measures of executive function when exploring relationships between physical activity and executive function.

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Jennifer Gapin and Jennifer L. Etnier

Children with attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (AD/HD) consistently perform worse on executive function (EF) tasks relative to those without AD/HD. Physical activity has a small effect on cognition in children and may be particularly beneficial for children with AD/HD by impacting fundamental EF deficiencies that characterize this disorder. The purpose of this study was to explore the extent to which physical activity is associated with EF in children with AD/HD. Eighteen boys (M age = 10.61, SD = 1.50) with AD/HD were recruited to complete four EF tasks. Physical activity was measured with an accelerometer that provided daily minutes of moderate-to-vigorous intensity physical activity; this measure was a significant predictor of performance on the Tower of London planning task, adjusted R 2 = .28, F(1, 16) = 7.61, p < .05, and was positively associated with other EF measures. These results suggest that higher physical activity is associated with better EF performance in AD/HD children.

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James Faulkner, Danielle Lambrick, Sebastian Kaufmann and Lee Stoner

Background:

The purpose of this study was to assess the acute effects of posture (upright vs recumbent) during moderate-intensity cycle exercise on executive function and prefrontal cortex oxygenation in young healthy adults.

Methods:

Seventeen physically active men (24.6 ± 4.3 years) completed 2 30-minute submaximal exercise tests (conditions: upright and recumbent cycle ergometry). Executive function was assessed using the “color” and “word” Stroop task, preexercise (resting) and postexercise. Regional oxygen saturation (rSO2) to the prefrontal cortex was continuously monitored using near-infrared spectroscopy.

Results:

Significant improvements in executive function (Stroop color and word tasks) were observed after 30 minutes of exercise for both upright and recumbent cycling (P < .05). However, there were no differences in executive function between cycling conditions (P > .05). A significant increase in rSO2 was recorded immediately postexercise compared with preexercise for both conditions (P < .05), with a trend (P = .06) for higher peak rSO2 following recumbent cycling compared with upright cycling (81.9% ± 6.5% cf 79.7% ± 9.3%, respectively).

Conclusions:

Although submaximal cycling exercise acutely improves cognitive performance and prefrontal oxygenation, changes in cognition are not perceived to be dependent on body posture in young, healthy men.

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Robert H. Wood, Rafael Reyes-Alvarez, Brian Maraj, Kristi L. Metoyer and Michael A. Welsch

It has been suggested that physical and cognitive functions are associated with health-related quality of life (HRQL). Previous work examining the relationship between physical ability and HRQL is equivocal, and information about cognitive function in relation to HRQL is largely restricted to people with cognitive impairments. We investigated the relationships of physical ability and cognitive performance to HRQL in 44 older adults (72-93 years). The results suggest significant relationships between the endurance item of the AAHPERD test and the physical mobility and pain components of HRQL and between AAHPERD agility scores and the physical mobility component of HRQL. Visual simple-reaction time and the backward digit-span memory test were found to be related to physical mobility. The subject-performed-tasks memory test was related to the social component of HRQL. These data support the use of the AAHPERD test for characterizing physical ability of older adults as it relates to HRQL and identify specific cognitive support measures that reflect the relationship between cognition and HRQL in older adults.

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Daniel M. Landers, Shawn M. Arent and Rafer S. Lutz

Recent research has demonstrated transient affective changes and impairment of short-term memory in college wrestlers as a result of rapid weight loss (RWL) of at least 5% body weight prior to competition. This study examined the effects of RWL on cognition and affect in high school wrestlers. Wrestlers were considered to be engaging in RWL if they were losing over 5% of body weight (n = 14). Those losing less than 1% of body weight (n = 14) were considered maintainers and served as the control group. Both groups were given a battery of tests assessing cognitive performance (Trail Making Tests A & B, Stroop color-word test, Wechsler digit span, and choice reaction/movement time) and affective state (PANAS) at normal weight (5 to 10 days prior to competition) and again 8 to 12 hours prior to weigh-in. Results indicated an average loss of 4.68 kg in the RWL group and 0.29 kg in the control group. A group-by-time MANOVA and univariate follow-up tests indicated a significant group-by-time interaction for positive affect, p < .014, with the RWL wrestlers having less positive affect than the control group just prior to weigh-in. However, none of the cognitive performance tests demonstrated significant differential changes for RWL vs. control groups, p > .10. Given the control for competition effects in the present study, results suggest there are affective disturbances, but not cognitive impairments, associated with RWL of at least 5% body weight in high school wrestlers.

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Jennifer L. Etnier, Laurie Wideman, Jeffrey D. Labban, Aaron T. Piepmeier, Daniel M. Pendleton, Kelly K. Dvorak and Katie Becofsky

Acute exercise benefits cognition, and some evidence suggests that brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) plays a role in this effect. The purpose of this study was to explore the dose–response relationship between exercise intensity, memory, and BDNF. Young adults completed 3 exercise sessions at different intensities relative to ventilator threshold (Vt) (VO2max, Vt – 20%, Vt + 20%). For each session, participants exercised for approximately 30 min. Following exercise, they performed the Rey Auditory Verbal Learning Test (RAVLT) to assess short-term memory, learning, and long-term memory recall. Twenty-four hours later, they completed the RAVLT recognition trial, which provided another measure of long-term memory. Blood was drawn before exercise, immediately postexercise, and after the 30-min recall test. Results indicated that long-term memory as assessed after the 24-hr delay differed as a function of exercise intensity with the largest benefits observed following maximal intensity exercise. BDNF data showed a significant increase in response to exercise; however, there were no differences relative to exercise intensity and there were no significant associations between BDNF and memory. Future research is warranted so that we can better understand how to use exercise to benefit cognitive performance.

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Jessie N. Stapleton, Diane E. Mack and Kathleen A. Martin Ginis

The aim of this meta-analysis was to examine the magnitude of the relationship between social influence and both PA behavior and PA-related social cognitions among samples of adults with physical disabilities, including those with chronic conditions that can lead to a physical disability. A comprehensive literature search was conducted to identify studies involving adults with physical disability, a measure of social influence, and a measure of PA behavior or PA-related social cognitions. A total of 27 studies with 4,768 participants yielded 47 effect sizes to be included for meta-analysis. Significant, small- to medium-sized relationships were identified between social influence and PA behavior, and social influence and PA-related social cognitions. These relationships suggest that social factors positively associate with physical-activity-related social cognitions and should be targeted when promoting physical activity behavior change among adults with a physical disability.

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Lambros Lazuras, Vassileios Barkoukis, Angelos Rodafinos and Haralambos Tzorbatzoudis

Doping use is an ongoing problem in contemporary sports. Despite efforts to detect and control doping, research on its etiology is limited, especially among elite-level athletes. The present study used an integrated social cognition model to examine the predictors of doping intentions. Structured anonymous questionnaires were completed by 1075 Greek adult elite-level athletes (M age = 25 years, SD = 5.89, 36.1% females) from both team and individual sports. Multiple regression and mediation analyses showed that attitudes, normative beliefs, situational temptation, and behavioral control significantly predicted doping intentions. A normative process was identified whereby situational temptation mediated the effects of normative beliefs on intentions. The findings provide the basis for future social cognition research in doping use, and set the framework for the development of evidence-based preventive interventions.

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Jaclyn P. Maher, Eldin Dzubur, Jimi Huh, Stephen Intille and Genevieve F. Dunton

This study used time-varying effect modeling to examine time-of-day differences in how behavioral cognitions predict subsequent physical activity (PA). Adults (N = 116) participated in three 4-day “bursts” of ecological momentary assessment (EMA). Participants were prompted with eight EMA questionnaires per day assessing behavioral cognitions (i.e., intentions, self-efficacy, outcome expectations) and wore an accelerometer during waking hours. Subsequent PA was operationalized as accelerometer-derived minutes of moderate- or vigorousintensity PA in the 2 hr following the EMA prompt. On weekdays, intentions positively predicted subsequent PA in the morning (9:25 a.m.–11:45 a.m.) and in the evening (8:15 p.m.–10:00 p.m.). Self-efficacy positively predicted subsequent PA on weekday evenings (7:35 p.m.–10:00 p.m.). Outcome expectations were unrelated to subsequent PA on weekdays. On weekend days, behavior cognitions and subsequent PA were unrelated regardless of time of day. This study identifies windows of opportunity and vulnerability for motivation-based PA interventions aiming to deliver intervention content within the context of adults’ daily lives.

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Juliana Hotta Ansai, Larissa Pires de Andrade, Marcele Stephanie de Souza Buto, Verena de Vassimon Barroso, Ana Claudia Silva Farche, Paulo Giusti Rossi and Anielle Cristhine de Medeiros Takahashi

The purpose of this study was to investigate the effects of the addition of a dual task to multicomponent training on cognition of active older adults. Eighty physically active older adults were divided into an intervention group (IG) and a control group (CG). Both groups performed multicomponent training over 12 weeks. The IG simultaneously performed exercises and cognitive tasks. The Mini-Mental State Examination, the Montreal Cognitive Assessment, and the Clock Drawing Test were used for cognitive assessments. The Timed Up and Go Test associated with a cognitive task was used for dual-task assessment. Significant interactions were not observed between groups in terms of the cognitive variables or the dual-task performance. An interaction was observed only for Timed Up and Go Test performance, which was better in the CG than in the IG. Active older adults showed no improvement in cognition following the addition of the dual task to the multicomponent training.