Active Workstations Do Not Impair Executive Function in Young and Middle-Age Adults

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Abstract

Purpose

This study aimed to examine the effects of self-selected low-intensity walking on an active workstation on executive functions (EF) in young and middle-age adults.

Methods

Using a within-subjects design, 32 young (20.6 ± 2.0 yr) and 26 middle-age (45.6 ± 11.8 yr) adults performed low-intensity treadmill walking and seated control conditions in randomized order on separate days, while completing an EF test battery. EF was assessed using modified versions of the Stroop (inhibition), Sternberg (working memory), Wisconsin Card Sorting (cognitive flexibility), and Tower of London (global EF) cognitive tasks. Behavioral performance outcomes were assessed using composite task z-scores and traditional measures of reaction time and accuracy. Average HR and step count were also measured throughout.

Results

The expected task difficulty effects were found for reaction time and accuracy. No significant main effects or interactions as a function of treadmill walking were found for tasks assessing global EF and the three individual EF domains. Accuracy on the Tower of London task was slightly impaired during slow treadmill walking for both age-groups. Middle-age adults displayed longer planning times for more difficult conditions of the Tower of London during walking compared with sitting. A 50-min session of low-intensity treadmill walking on an active workstation resulted in accruing approximately 4500 steps.

Conclusions

These findings suggest that executive function performance remains relatively unaffected while walking on an active workstation, further supporting the use of treadmill workstations as an effective approach to increase physical activity and reduce sedentary time in the workplace.

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