Aerobic exercise enhances cognitive flexibility

J Clin Psychol Med Settings. 2009 Jun;16(2):186-93. doi: 10.1007/s10880-009-9159-6. Epub 2009 Mar 28.


Introduction: Physical activity is believed to prevent cognitive decline and may enhance frontal lobe activity.

Methods: Subjects were 91 healthy adults enrolled in a wellness center. Over a 10 week intervention, controls were aerobically active 0-2 days per week. Half the intervention group was active 3-4 days/week and half 5-7 days/week. Outcome measures included memory, mental speed, reaction time, attention, and cognitive flexibility.

Results: Neurocognitive data were analyzed by repeated measures comparing minimal aerobic exercise (the control group) to moderate aerobic exercise (3-4 days/week), and to high aerobic exercise (5-7 days/week). Initial analyses noted significant improvements in mental speed (p = .03), attention (p = .047), and cognitive flexibility (p = .002). After controlling for age, gender, education, and changes in psychomotor speed, only cognitive flexibility still showed significant improvements (p = .02).

Conclusion: Over a 10 week period, increasing frequency of aerobic activity was shown to be associated with enhanced cognitive performance, in particular cognitive flexibility, a measure of executive function.

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Attention
  • Cognition*
  • Exercise*
  • Female
  • Florida
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Recall
  • Middle Aged
  • Neuropsychological Tests / statistics & numerical data*
  • Problem Solving
  • Psychometrics
  • Psychomotor Performance
  • Reaction Time
  • Young Adult