How Varying Levels of Acute Exercise Influence Cognitive Functions




Santana, Andrew

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



Previous studies have demonstrated cognitive benefits associated with memory following acute bouts of aerobic exercise. Associated with its effects on memory, aerobic exercise has been shown to inhibit the progression of cognitive deterioration associated with aging as well as increase the regenerative capability of the brain’s neural network. Within this study, the effects of three levels of physical exertion on long-term memory are compared to one another by asking 30 participants to undergo three hour-long sessions. Each session utilized one of the following 13 minute conditions: watch a slideshow using PowerPoint (sedentary); maintain 55% of their maximum heart on a treadmill (moderate); or maintain 75% of their maximum heart rate on a treadmill (heavy). We then asked the participant to study a 30-word list of English nouns, which they would attempt to recall 10 minutes after studying. The participants were asked how likely, on a scale of 0 to 100, they were to remember each individual word, which was used to assess the participants’ judgment of learning (JOL). It was hypothesized that the recall scores would be significantly higher in the moderate session when compared to their scores in the sedentary session. The heavy session was adopted in order to see if there was a potential threshold to the positive effects that exercise could have on cognition. The results of the experiment confirmed our initial hypothesis, revealing that the average of the recall scores in the moderate session (M = 44.0%) were in fact significantly higher when compared to the sedentary session (M = 35.8%), t(26) = 2.79, p < .05. Along with this, the heavy condition (M = 42.1%) recall scores, while slightly lower than the moderate session, remained significantly higher than the scores within the sedentary session, t(26) = 3.02, p < .05. Pertaining to the participants’ understanding of their own memory retention, JOL scores reflected a similar trend as recall scores with them being significantly higher in both the moderate (M = 56.5%) and heavy session (M = 56.5) when compared to the sedentary session (M = 47.9%), t(29) = -2.093, p < .05, and t(29) = -2.381, p < .05, respectively. This reveals that individuals had an increase in confidence of recalling the list of words within the moderate and heavy sessions.



aerobic exercise, long term memory, metamemory, cognition, Honors College


Santana, A. R. (2013). How varying levels of acute exercise influence cognitive functions (Unpublished thesis). Texas State University-San Marcos, San Marcos, Texas.


Rights Holder

Rights License

Rights URI