Acute aerobic activity enhances response inhibition for less than 30min

Brain Cogn. 2016 Nov;109:59-65. doi: 10.1016/j.bandc.2016.08.002. Epub 2016 Sep 17.


Acute exercise appears to facilitate certain aspects of cognitive processing. The possibility that exercise may lead to more efficient inhibitory processes is of particular interest, owing to the wide range of cognitive and motor functions that inhibition may underlie. The purpose of the present study was to examine the immediate and the delayed effect of acute aerobic exercise on response inhibition, motor planning, and eye-hand coordination in healthy active adults. Forty healthy and active participants (10 females) with a mean age of 51.88±8.46years performed the Go-NoGo test (response inhibition) and the Catch Game (motor planning and eye-hand coordination) before, immediately after, and following a 30-min recovery period in two conditions: a moderate-intensity aerobic session and a control session. In 2-way repeated measures ANOVAs (2 treatments×3 times) followed by contrast comparisons for post hoc analyses, significant pre-post interactions - indicating improvements immediately following exercise but not following the control condition - were observed in the Go-NoGo measures: Accuracy, Reaction Time, and Performance Index, but not in the Catch Game. In the post-follow-up interaction a deterioration was observed in Performance Index, and a trend of deterioration in Accuracy and Reaction Time. The conclusion was that a single session of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise facilitates response inhibition, but not motor planning or eye-hand coordination, in middle-aged healthy active adults. On the other hand, the improvement does not last 30min following a recovery period. Further studies are needed to examine the duration of the inhibitory control benefits and the accumulative effect of a series of acute exercise bouts, as well as to determine the brain networks and/or neurotransmitter systems most affected by the intervention.

Keywords: Aerobic session; Executive control; Middle-age; Transient effect.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Executive Function / physiology*
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Inhibition, Psychological*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Psychomotor Performance / physiology*