Effect of Exercise Intensity and Duration on Postexercise Executive Function

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The effect of exercise volume represented by exercise intensity and duration on postexercise executive function (EF) improvement remains unclear. In the present study, involving two volume-controlled evaluations, we aimed to compare acute exercise protocols with differing intensities and durations to establish an effective exercise protocol for improving EF.


In study 1, 12 healthy male subjects performed cycle ergometer exercise, based on a low-intensity (LI) protocol for 20 min (LI20), moderate-intensity (MI) protocol for 20 min (MI20), and MI20 volume-matched LI protocol for 40 min (LI40). The exercise intensities for the LI and MI were set at 30% and 60% of peak oxygen consumption, respectively. In study 2, 15 healthy male subjects performed MI exercise for 10 min (MI10), MI20, and 40 min (MI40). To evaluate the EF, the color–word Stroop task was administrated before exercise, immediately after exercise, and during the 30-min postexercise recovery.


In study 1, postexercise EF improvement was sustained for a longer duration after MI20 than after LI40 and was sustained for a longer duration after LI40 than after LI20. In study 2, although there was no significant difference in post-MI exercise EF improvement, the magnitude of difference in the EF between preexercise and 30-min postexercise recovery period was moderately larger in MI40, but not in MI10 and MI20, indicating that the EF improvement during postexercise recovery could be sustained after MI40.


The present findings showed that postexercise EF improvement could be prolonged after MI exercise with a moderate duration compared with volume-matched LI exercise with a longer duration. In addition, MI exercise with a relatively long duration may slightly prolong the postexercise EF improvement.

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