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Psychol Aging. 2013 Jun;28(2):587-94. doi: 10.1037/a0032634.

Exercise holds immediate benefits for affect and cognition in younger and older adults.

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Department of Psychology, Stanford University, Stanford, CA 94306, USA.


Physical activity is associated with improved affective experience and enhanced cognitive processing. Potential age differences in the degree of benefit, however, are poorly understood because most studies examine either younger or older adults. The present study examined age differences in cognitive performance and affective experience immediately following a single bout of moderate exercise. Participants (144 community members aged 19 to 93) were randomly assigned to one of two experimental conditions: (a) exercise (15 min of moderate intensity stationary cycling) or (b) control (15 min completing ratings of neutral IAPS images). Before and after the manipulation, participants completed tests of working memory and momentary affect experience was measured. Results suggest that exercise is associated with increased levels of high-arousal positive affect (HAP) and decreased levels of low-arousal positive affect (LAP) relative to control condition. Age moderated the effects of exercise on LAP, such that younger age was associated with a drop in reported LAP postexercise, whereas the effects of exercise on HAP were consistent across age. Exercise also led to faster RTs on a working memory task than the control condition across age. Self-reported negative affect was unchanged. Overall, findings suggest that exercise may hold important benefits for both affective experience and cognitive performance regardless of age.

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