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Brain Res. 2010 Jun 23;1341:12-24. doi: 10.1016/j.brainres.2010.03.091. Epub 2010 Apr 8.

The effect of exercise-induced arousal on cognitive task performance: a meta-regression analysis.

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  • 1Department of Kinesiology, The University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602-6554, USA.


The effects of acute exercise on cognitive performance were examined using meta-analytic techniques. The overall mean effect size was dependent on the timing of cognitive assessment. During exercise, cognitive task performance was impaired by a mean effect of -0.14. However, impairments were only observed during the first 20min of exercise. Otherwise, exercise-induced arousal enhanced performance on tasks that involved rapid decisions and automatized behaviors. Following exercise, cognitive task performance improved by a mean effect of 0.20. Arousal continued to facilitate speeded mental processes and also enhanced memory storage and retrieval. Positive effects were observed following exercise regardless of whether the study protocol was designed to measure the effects of steady-state exercise, fatiguing exercise, or the inverted-U hypothesis. Finally, cognitive performance was affected differentially by exercise mode. Cycling was associated with enhanced performance during and after exercise, whereas treadmill running led to impaired performance during exercise and a small improvement in performance following exercise. These results are indicative of the complex relation between exercise and cognition. Cognitive performance may be enhanced or impaired depending on when it is measured, the type of cognitive task selected, and the type of exercise performed.

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