Postural Control, Dual Task Performance and Executive Function Following an Ultramarathon

Percept Mot Skills. 2021 Dec;128(6):2767-2786. doi: 10.1177/00315125211044351. Epub 2021 Sep 2.


As research into the postural and cognitive effects of ultramarathon running is sparse and still needed, we investigated the effect of ultramarathon running on runners' postural control, dual task postural control and a measure of executive function-the flanker test, expecting fatigue-related deterioration on each measure. We used a pre- and post-test research design with 14 runners who completed (a) postural assessment with eyes open and closed, on a flat surface and on foam during (b) a two-choice reaction time dual task postural assessment, and (c) an executive function modified flanker task. With regard to postural stability, we observed, after running, increased anterior-posterior (AP) path length and AP root mean square (RMS) and reductions in both mediolateral (ML) RMS and ML median frequency. Dual task analysis showed reduced ML RMS prior to the race, whereas the effect was absent afterwards. Reaction times were not significantly altered between pre-post or surface conditions assessments. There were no statistically significant differences in mean modified flanker scores before and after the race. These data demonstrated that, following an endurance run, there were plane specific movement adaptations in postural sway that may have resulted from neuroprotective changes under extreme fatigue.

Keywords: endurance; executive function; postural control; ultramarathon.

MeSH terms

  • Executive Function*
  • Humans
  • Movement
  • Postural Balance
  • Reaction Time
  • Task Performance and Analysis*