Aerobic Exercise Enhances Cognitive Flexibility

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Abstract

Introduction

Physical activity is believed to prevent cognitive decline and may enhance frontal lobe activity.

Methods

Subjects were 91 healthy adults enrolled in a wellness center. Over a 10 week intervention, controls were aerobically active 0–2 days per week. Half the intervention group was active 3–4 days/week and half 5–7 days/week. Outcome measures included memory, mental speed, reaction time, attention, and cognitive flexibility.

Results

Neurocognitive data were analyzed by repeated measures comparing minimal aerobic exercise (the control group) to moderate aerobic exercise (3–4 days/week), and to high aerobic exercise (5–7 days/week). Initial analyses noted significant improvements in mental speed (p = .03), attention (p = .047), and cognitive flexibility (p = .002). After controlling for age, gender, education, and changes in psychomotor speed, only cognitive flexibility still showed significant improvements (p = .02).

Conclusion

Over a 10 week period, increasing frequency of aerobic activity was shown to be associated with enhanced cognitive performance, in particular cognitive flexibility, a measure of executive function.

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