Cognitive control exertion leads to reductions in peak power output and [Formula: see text] as well as increased perceived exertion on a graded exercise test to exhaustion

J Sports Sci. 2017 Sep;35(18):1-9. doi: 10.1080/02640414.2016.1237777. Epub 2016 Sep 29.


We investigated effects of a brief (10.5 min) cognitively demanding task on graded exercise test performance. Untrained, university students (N = 15) completed two graded exercise tests in counterbalanced, randomised order. One test was preceded by restful viewing of a documentary video (control); the other by a stop-signal task. Cardiorespiratory functions and perceived exertion were monitored during exercise. Peak power output (W) was lower following the stop-signal task (M = 240.03, SD = 53.37) compared to control (M = 246.03, SD = 52.60), P = 0.002, ηP2 = 0.493, as was [Formula: see text] (P = 0.042, Cohen's d = 0.55). Perceived exertion was significantly higher at 50% (d = 0.77) and 75% (d = 0.83) of iso-time following the cognitive task (Ps ≤ 0.01). Results are consistent with research showing negative carryover effects of cognitively demanding tasks on whole-body endurance performance. Results also support the psychobiological model of exercise as performance of the cognitive task did not affect perceived exertion when exercise task demands were lower, but lead to greater perceived exertion and earlier withdrawal of effort at higher levels of exercise task demand. Findings have implications for understanding psychological determinants of exercise performance and conditions that may lead to underestimation of [Formula: see text].

Keywords: RPE; Self-control; mental effort; mental fatigue; stop-signal task.

MeSH terms

  • Cognition*
  • Exercise / psychology*
  • Exercise Test / methods
  • Female
  • Heart Rate / physiology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mental Fatigue / physiopathology
  • Oxygen Consumption / physiology
  • Perception / physiology*
  • Physical Exertion*
  • Pulmonary Gas Exchange
  • Respiratory Rate / physiology
  • Self-Control / psychology*
  • Tidal Volume
  • Young Adult