Failure to identify an acute exercise effect on executive function assessed by the wisconsin card sorting test

Chun Chih Wang, Chia Hao Shih, Caterina Pesce, Tai Fen Song, Tsung Min Hung, Yu Kai Chang*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: Acute exercise has been linked to the facilitation of executive function, but little is known regarding executive function assessed by the Wisconsin Card Sorting Test (WCST). The present research consisted of two experiments aimed to determine whether acute aerobic exercise influences successive WCST performance. Methods: In Study 1, 27 young adults were randomly assigned to the exercise or reading control group and then instructed to perform the WCST before and after assigned treatment. In exercise group, participants completed a single bout aerobic exercise with moderate intensity for 20min on a stationary bike. A similar experimental protocol was replicated in Study 2 with 24 late middle-aged adults to look for age differences during adulthood and control for a potential ceiling effect at young adult age. Results: Although a significant time effect was observed in young adults, both studies revealed that there was no main effect for treatment or an interaction between treatment and time on any of the WCST indices. Conclusion: Acute aerobic exercise failed to influence executive function as assessed by the WCST, revealing that this classical neuropsychological test tapping executive function may not be sensitive to acute exercise. Our findings suggest that acute exercise does not broadly affect the entire family of executive functions, or its effect on a specific aspect of executive function may be task-dependent, as proposed by Etnier and Chang (2009).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)64-72
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Sport and Health Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2015 Mar 1


  • Aerobic exercise
  • Cognitive control
  • Executive function
  • Neuropsychological assessment

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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