Examining the effects of exercise with different cognitive loads on executive function: A systematic review

Chiung Ling Chu, Ting Yu Chueh, Tsung Min Hung*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

1 Citation (Scopus)


Executive functions (EFs) play a pivotal role in daily functioning, academic and vocational achievement, well-being, and the regulation of cognitive processes that impact the quality of life. Physical exercise has been shown to have positive effects on EFs. However, there remains some controversy regarding whether exercise with greater cognitive loads may be more effective for improving EFs. Through this systematic review, we aimed to synthesize available cross-sectional and longitudinal intervention studies concerning the effects of exercise with varying cognitive loads on EFs. The literature search was conducted across three electronic databases, retrieving cross-sectional and longitudinal intervention (randomized controlled trials) studies, using a standardized EF measurement from inception until June 2023. Our search yielded a total of 1570 potentially relevant articles, of which 53 were considered for full-text reading, and 28 were included in the review after full-text reading. The present study utilized Gentile's (2000) taxonomy classification to determine the cognitive load levels in exercises. Overall, findings from the 28 included studies suggested that exercise training interventions are a promising way to promote overall EF. Noteworthy, there is preliminary empirical evidence to suggest that exercises with higher cognitive loads resulted in greater benefits for EF than those with lower cognitive loads.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEnhancement of Brain Functions Prompted by Physical Activity Vol 1
EditorsChi-Hung Juan, Chun-Hao Wang, Shih-Chun Kao
PublisherElsevier B.V.
Number of pages26
ISBN (Print)9780443221965
Publication statusPublished - 2024 Jan

Publication series

NameProgress in Brain Research
ISSN (Print)0079-6123
ISSN (Electronic)1875-7855


  • Cognitive load
  • Executive function
  • Exercise
  • Systematic review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience


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