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Acute effect of a physical exercise session on cognitive functioning: Moderately active sportspersons versus sedentary individuals

Karel J. Van Deventer
Carynne Cozens
Kyle D. Du Plessis
Reghard P. La Grange


In sport, physical activity (PA) and life in general, cognitive functioning plays a very important role in decision-making and performance. This study investigated whether the relationship between acute exercise and cognitive performance was beneficial and if there was a difference in this relationship between moderately active  individuals and sedentary individuals. The acute effect of exercise on cognitive function was measured by means of the Stroop Test. The male participants (N=30; Age= MEAN±SD & range=18-25yrs) completed: (1) a trial Stroop Test; (2) a baseline Stroop Test; (3) a repeated sprint test; and (4) a final Stroop Test. The moderately active sportspersons were significantly (p<0.05) fitter than the  sedentary group as they covered a greater distance during the Repeated Sprint test. There were significant differences (p<0.05) within and between groups, regarding pre- and post-Stroop Test performance. The moderately active sportspersons  performed significantly (p<0.05) better in reaction time (RT) and in accuracy  compared to the sedentary group. There was a beneficial relationship between acute exercise and cognitive performance and this relationship differed between  moderately active sportspersons and sedentary individuals.

Key words: Physical exercise; Cognitive functioning; Stroop Test; Repeated sprint test; Sedentary individuals; Moderately active sportspersons.