This study assessed the effect of acute continuous and intermittent physical activity (PA) on children's executive function (EF). Twenty-four participants (14 boys M = 10.32 ± 0.48 years), using a within-subjects design, performed a continuous (70% HRmax) and an intermittent (≥85%HRmax; 12 bouts: 30 s work, 45 s rest) PA bout of cycling, both lasting 15 min. Executive function was assessed using the Stroop task, Digit Span and Corsi Blocks tests and these were administered before and 1 min and 30 min post PA. Comparing both conditions, performance at the Stroop task (i.e., reaction time) improved in the continuous condition after 1 min and after 30 min (congruent stimuli) (mean diff = 126 ms ± 59; p = 0.047 and mean diff = 89 ms ± 38; p = 0.031, respectively). The intermittent condition improved at 30 min post (congruent and incongruent) (mean diff = 116 ms ± 46; p = 0.021 and mean diff = 111 ms ± 49; p = 0.039, respectively) showing a delayed benefit from the PA bout and greater improvements compared to the continuous condition. Verbal memory was improved for the continuous condition 1 min post only and no effects on visual memory were observed for both experimental conditions. The results demonstrated that both acute PA bouts might be a time-efficient approach for enhancing EF, with intermittent PA having a delayed and greater benefit.
Bibliographical noteThis is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license
- Executive Function
- Reaction Time
- Stroop Test