The acute effects of continuous and intermittent cycling on executive function in children

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    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.

    Original languageEnglish
    Article number103363
    Pages (from-to)103363
    Number of pages10
    JournalActa Psychologica
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2021

    Bibliographical note

    This is an open access article under the CC BY-NC-ND license


    • Child
    • Cognition
    • Executive Function
    • Exercise
    • Humans
    • Male
    • Reaction Time
    • Stroop Test


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