A review was conducted of studies that assessed the effects of acute bouts of physical activity on adults' cognitive performance. Three groups of studies were constituted on the basis of the type of exercise protocol employed. Each group was then evaluated in terms of information-processing theory. It was concluded that submaximal aerobic exercise performed for periods up to 60 min facilitate specific aspects of information processing; however, extended exercise that leads to dehydration compromises both information processing and memory functions. The selective effects of exercise on cognitive performance are explained in terms of Sanders' [Acta Psychol. 53 (1983) 61] cognitive-energetic model.