Effects of exercise intensity and physical activity levels on the brain and cognition

Keita Kamijo*, Yoshiaki Nishihira, Takuro Higashiura

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


The interactive effects of exercise intensity and physical activity level on the brain and cognition of young adults were investigated using the electromyographic reaction time (EMG-RT), the P3, and the NoGo P3, as well as the contingent negative variation (CNV) of event-related brain potentials. Participants (n = 26: 24.0 ± 0.7 years) were divided on the basis of their regular physical activity level into active and inactive groups. Then, they performed a Go/NoGo reaction time task in the no exercise, control condition; as well as after light, moderate, and hard cycling exercises. Results indicated that increases in P3 and NoGo P3 amplitude following moderate exercise were larger in the inactive group, suggesting that inactive individuals were more sensitive to exercise intensity than active individuals. Active individuals might be better able to sustain their attention during the Go/NoGo reaction time task, despite the exercise intensity. These findings are suggestive of a differential effect of exercise intensity on cognitive function that might be dependent on the level of regular physical activity. The effects of exercise intensity on EMG-RTs were observed across groups. However, the P3 latency was not affected by exercise intensity. These contradictory results are possible related to the nature of the cognitive task, such as its difficulty. Moreover, increases in CNV amplitudes following moderate exercise were larger than in other exercise conditions across groups, suggesting that motor preparation process is also facilitated by moderate, acute exercise. These findings provide additional evidence for the beneficial effects of acute aerobic exercise on the brain and cognition of young adults.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)63-72
Number of pages10
JournalJapanese Journal of Physical Fitness and Sports Medicine
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2009 Feb


  • Cognitive function
  • Event-related brain potentials (ERPs)
  • Exercise intensity
  • Physical activity level
  • Young adults

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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