The relationship between physical activity levels and executive control functioning was examined in 40 young adults (mean age = 21.4 yrs; 19 females) who were grouped on the basis of their regular physical activity level. Participants performed a task switching paradigm with two conditions. The pure task condition required repeated performance on a single task (e.g., AAAAAA...); the mixed-task condition required participants to change rapidly between different tasks (e.g., AABBAA...). The mixed-task condition created greater executive control requirements due to working memory demands for the maintenance of multiple task sets in memory (compared to the pure task; i.e., mixing cost) and due to requisite inhibition of a task set on switch trials (versus non-switch trials; i.e., switch costs). Task performance measures of reaction times (RTs) and the P3 component of an event-related brain potential were collected. Results show a smaller mixing cost on RTs and P3 amplitudes and a smaller switch cost on RTs for the active group relative to the sedentary group. These data suggest that when the task requires greater amounts of executive control, the physically active group demonstrates a more efficient executive functioning than the sedentary group. Thus, this research presents evidence that regular physical activity selectively improves executive function, as represented by the task switching paradigm, even during young adulthood.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Physiology (medical)
- Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology