The Influence of Acute Intense Exercise on Exogenous Spatial Attention Depends on Physical Fitness Level

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We investigated the effect of a previous bout of intense exercise on exogenous spatial attention. In Experiment 1, a group of participants performed an exogenous spatial task at rest (without prior effort), immediately after intense exercise, and after recovering from an intense exercise. The analyses revealed that the typical “facilitation effect” (i.e., faster reaction times on cued than on uncued trials) immediately after exercise was positively correlated with participants' fitness level. In Experiment 2, a high-fit and a low-fit group performed the same task at rest (without prior effort) and immediately after an intense exercise. Results revealed that, after the bout of exercise, only low-fit participants showed reduced attentional effects compared to the rest condition. We argue that the normal functioning of exogenous attention was influenced by intense effort, affecting low-fit participants to a larger extent than to high-fit participants. As a consequence, target processing was prioritized over irrelevant stimuli.

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