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.
James Faulkner, Danielle Lambrick, Sebastian Kaufmann and Lee Stoner
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
Yu-Kai Chang, Yu-Hsiang Nien, Chia-Liang Tsai and Jennifer L. Etnier
The purpose of this article is to review the potential of Tai Chi Chuan as a mode of physical activity that could have cognitive benefits for older adults and to provide potential directions for future research. A brief introduction to Tai Chi Chuan and its related physical benefits is provided. In addition, the empirical literature related to Tai Chi Chuan and cognition is reviewed. Potential mediators of the relationship between Tai Chi Chuan and cognition, including physical resources, disease status, and mental resources, are discussed. Based on the limitations of the extant literature, it is argued that future research in this area must provide more detailed descriptions of Tai Chi Chuan, particularly in terms of intensity and program progression. Consideration of the specific type of cognition that is expected to benefit is also encouraged, and approaches for further efforts to understand how Tai Chi Chuan affects cognition are recommended.
Trevor A. Pickering, Jimi Huh, Stephen Intille, Yue Liao, Mary Ann Pentz and Genevieve F. Dunton
Decisions to perform moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) involve behavioral cognitive processes that may differ within individuals depending on the situation.
Ecological momentary assessment (EMA) was used to examine the relationships of momentary behavioral cognitions (ie, self-efficacy, outcome expectancy, intentions) with MVPA (measured by accelerometer). A sample of 116 adults (mean age, 40.3 years; 72.4% female) provided real-time EMA responses via mobile phones across 4 days. Multilevel models were used to test whether momentary behavioral cognitions differed across contexts and were associated with subsequent MVPA. Mixed-effects location scale models were used to examine whether subject-level means and within-subjects variances in behavioral cognitions were associated with average daily MVPA.
Momentary behavioral cognitions differed across contexts for self-efficacy (P = .007) but not for outcome expectancy (P = .53) or intentions (P = .16). Momentary self-efficacy, intentions, and their interaction predicted MVPA within the subsequent 2 hours (Ps < .01). Average daily MVPA was positively associated with within-subjects variance in momentary self-efficacy and intentions for physical activity (Ps < .05).
Although momentary behavioral cognitions are related to subsequent MVPA, adults with higher average MVPA have more variation in physical activity self-efficacy and intentions. Performing MVPA may depend more on how much behavioral cognitions vary across the day than whether they are generally high or low.
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.
Wonjae Choi and Seungwon Lee
, indicating the high accuracy of the measurement ( Wang & Chen, 2010 ). Cognitive function was assessed using Montreal Cognitive Assessment ( Freitas, Simoes, Alves, & Santana, 2013 ) and General Practitioner Assessment of Cognition ( Brodaty, Kemp, & Low, 2004 ). Montreal Cognitive Assessment assesses
Jeffrey D. Labban and Jennifer L. Etnier
cognition when assessed within 15 min of exercise cessation, but nonsignificant overall effects when cognition was assessed more than 15 min following exercise cessation. Memory, however, is one cognitive domain for which the effects of acute exercise may be more durable. Long-term memory has been