Cognitive performance after strenuous physical exercise

Percept Mot Skills. 1996 Oct;83(2):479-88. doi: 10.2466/pms.1996.83.2.479.


Stimulating as well as detrimental effects of exercise on cognitive functioning have been reported. In the present study, 15 endurance-trained athletes (aged 18 to 42 years) performed a bicycle ergometer endurance test at 75% of their maximal work capacity (Wmax). Psychomotor and cognitive tests were administered before and immediately after exercise. These consisted of simple reaction time (RT), 3-choice RT and Stimulus-Response (S-R) incompatible RT tasks, a finger-tapping task, and the Stroop test. Simple RT tasks, but also the more complex S-R in compatible RT, and Color Word Interference in the Stroop test showed an increase in speed of performance after exercise relative to baseline. An enhanced activation was probably responsible for this better performance on psychomotor and cognitive tests. Since performance on the most complex task, the Interference subtest of the Stroop, was especially improved after exercise, the expectancy of the subjects of a potential positive effect of exercise was thought to have been responsible.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Arousal*
  • Attention*
  • Cognition*
  • Discrimination Learning
  • Exercise / psychology*
  • Exercise Test / psychology
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Problem Solving
  • Psychomotor Performance
  • Reaction Time*
  • Set, Psychology