Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


School of Kinesiology and Recreation

First Advisor

Tyler J Kybartas


The interactions of exercise on executive functioning (EF) have been studied thoroughly in previous literature, focusing mostly on the interactions of aerobic exercise (AE) intensity and its effects on inhibition and working memory. Although multiple categories of EF have been shown to improve based on aerobic exercise, the foundation of brain development relies within its ability to utilize all three areas of EF simultaneously. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to determine the effects of exercise intensity and type of exercise (cognitive activation) on EF in elementary-aged children. Design: Eighteen children (mean age=10.4, SD=0.5, 61.1% girls) participated in a within-subjects experimental design consisting of four randomly selected testing days comparing exercise intensity (moderate vs. high) and exercise type (aerobic vs. cognitively activated). Methods: Executive functions (inhibitory control, working memory, cognitive flexibility) were measured once at baseline and following each 20-min exercise duration. Repeated measures ANOVA were used to determine significant findings between the exercise intensity and type on EF assessments (Stroop, Corsi, Berg). Results: The cognitively activated exercise (CAE) during moderate intensity exhibited greater cognitive flexibility scores among each intervention, while significant improvements were made when compared to moderate aerobic exercise. Scores within inhibitory control and working memory saw an overall improvement beneficial to aerobic exercise only. Contrary to the hypothesis, there was a significant negative effect of the CAE at vigorous intensities within certain variables of inhibitory control. Conclusion: These findings suggest that perhaps a more complex relationship is occurring among the three core categories of EF. Outside stimuli and stressors may have both negative and positive influences on EF assessments depending on participants prior level of PA experience as well as other factors. These mechanisms are discussed in the light of theories surrounding brain derived neurotropic factor and how a stressful environment and psychosocial variables influence the relationship of EF components.

KEYWORDS: Executive Function; Exercise Intensity; Aerobic Exercise; Cognitively Activated Exercise; Inhibitory Control; Working Memory; Cognitive Flexibility


Imported from Pommier_ilstu_0092N_11899.pdf


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