Exercise intensity when adjusted for an individual’s maximal aerobic power positively affects executive functions in young adults

Rutie Pilz Burstein, Yitzhak Luzon, Daniel S. Moran

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Problem statement: Acute exercise has been reported to positively affect a number of cognitive functions. However, the type and intensity of exercise that will be most beneficial is still unclear. Purpose: This studyevaluated the effect of aerobic exercise, adjusted to the maximal power of each subjects ona battery of executive functiontests. Methods: Twelve healthy, male students, 22-33years-of-age,visited the physiology lab on 3 occasions:Each underwent a treadmill-running test to determineVO2 max. Participants were then randomly divided into two groups.Group A performed aerobic exercise followed by executive function tests.One week later,participants performed tests after resting, without exercise. Group B wastested in reverse order. Aerobic exercise included 20-minute tread-mill running at 70%of subject’sVO2 max.Cognition tests started 10-minutes post-exercise,consisting ofthe Stroop testparts1-3, Trail making test 1-2, Serial seven and Word fluency. Results: Mean VO2max was 49±3.5ml/kg/min, heart rate 189±5.8 beats/min, and Rate of Perceived Exertion19±1.1. For Stroop part 3, group B performed better after exercise compared to resting: 56.8±17.2 vs. 47.7±13.8words/minute (p< 0.05).Trail making part 1 was performed by group A in 26.5±7.6 and 31.7±9.7 seconds at rest and after exercise, respectively(p<0.04). For part 2, group B performed better after exercise with57.3±9.8 seconds vs. 66.2±10.6 seconds after rest (p<0.04). For the Word fluency both groups showed better results after exercise compared to rest, however, only for group B differences reached statistical significance(14.7± 3.1 vs. 13±3.2words/min; p<0.05).Serial seven scores were unaffected by exercise stimuli. Conclusions: Acute exercise adjusted to the maximal aerobic power of subjects positively affects someexecutive functions in young adults;this is pronounced to a greater extend in complex rather than in simple cognitive tasks.

Original languageEnglish
Article number97
Pages (from-to)783-790
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Physical Education and Sport
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 2021


  • Cognitive functions
  • Exercise stimulus
  • Stroop test
  • Trail making test


Dive into the research topics of 'Exercise intensity when adjusted for an individual’s maximal aerobic power positively affects executive functions in young adults'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this