Effect of acute aerobic exercise on cognitive performance: Role of cardiovascular fitness

Yu Kai Chang, Lin Chi, Jennifer L. Etnier, Chun Chih Wang, Chien Heng Chu, Chenglin Zhou*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

78 Citations (Scopus)


Objectives: To determine whether fitness and cognitive task type moderate the relationship between acute exercise and cognition. Methods: Thirty-six healthy college-aged adults completed a maximal graded exercise test and were categorized as low, moderate, or high in cardiovascular fitness. Participants then performed the Stroop Test prior to and after an acute bout of cycling exercise that consisted of a 5-min warm-up, 20min of exercise at moderate intensity (65% VO2max), and a 5-min cool-down. Results: Individuals of all fitness levels improved in cognitive performance following exercise. With regards to fitness, while no differences were observed on the congruent condition as a function of fitness, high fit individuals showed the longest response time on the Stroop incongruent condition. Conclusion: The beneficial relationship between performance of an acute bout of exercise and cognitive performance were observed for both cognitive task types and for participants of all fitness levels. However, a curvilinear relationship was observed between fitness and cognitive task type performance such that participants who were moderately fit performed the best on the incongruent trials, implying that maintaining fitness at a moderate level is associated with better executive function.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)464-470
Number of pages7
JournalPsychology of Sport and Exercise
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2014 Sept
Externally publishedYes


  • Acute exercise
  • Executive function
  • Physical fitness
  • Stroop test

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology


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