How does a 4-week motor-cognitive training affect choice reaction, dynamic balance and cognitive performance ability? A randomized controlled trial in well-trained, young, healthy participants

SAGE Open Med. 2019 Aug 13;7:2050312119870020. doi: 10.1177/2050312119870020. eCollection 2019.


Background: We aimed to investigate the potential effects of a 4-week motor-cognitive dual-task training on cognitive and motor function as well as exercise motivation in young, healthy, and active adults.

Methods: A total of 26 participants (age 25 ± 2 years; 10 women) were randomly allocated to either the intervention group or a control group. The intervention group performed a motor-cognitive training (3×/week), while the participants of the control group received no intervention. Before and after the intervention period of 4 weeks, all participants underwent cognitive (d2-test, Trail Making Test) and motor (lower-body choice reaction test and time to stabilization test) assessments. Following each of the 12 workouts, self-reported assessments (rating of perceived exertion, enjoyment and pleasant anticipation of the next training session) were done. Analyses of covariances and 95% confidence intervals plotting for between group and time effects were performed.

Results: Data from 24 participants were analysed. No pre- to post-intervention improvement nor a between-group difference regarding motor outcomes (choice-reaction: F = 0.5; time to stabilization test: F = 0.7; p > 0.05) occurred. No significant training-induced changes were found in the cognitive tests (D2: F = 0.02; Trail Making Test A: F = 0.24; Trail Making Test B: F = 0.002; p > 0.05). Both enjoyment and anticipation of the next workout were rated as high.

Discussion: The neuro-motor training appears to have no significant effects on motor and cognitive function in healthy, young and physically active adults. This might be explained in part by the participants' very high motor and cognitive abilities, the comparably low training intensity or the programme duration. The high degree of exercise enjoyment, however, may qualify the training as a facilitator to initiate and maintain regular physical activity. The moderate to vigorous intensity levels further point towards potential health-enhancing cardiorespiratory effects.

Keywords: Integrated multimodal training; cognition; coordination; dual task.