The single-bout post-exercise executive benefit is independent of aerobically supported metabolic costs


Recent work by our group has shown that a 10-minute bout of aerobic exercise improves executive-related oculomotor control (Samani and Heath 2018: Neuropsychologia). In the present work we sought to determine whether specific and aerobically defined metabolic costs influence the magnitude of the single-bout post-exercise executive benefit. Participants (N=12) completed 10-minute exercise sessions – via cycle ergometer – at moderate (80% of lactate threshold [LT]), heavy (15% of the difference between LT and VO2 peak) and very-heavy (50% of the difference between LT and VO2 peak) intensities determined via an incremental ramp test to volitional exhaustion. Pre- and post-exercise executive function was examined via the antisaccade (and prosaccade) task wherein participants completed saccades mirror-symmetrical to a visual stimulus. Because antisaccades are supported via the same frontoparietal networks as modified following single-bout and chronic exercise, and are measured in high temporal resolution, they represent an ideal tool for examining exercise-related changes in executive function. Results showed a 20 ms reduction in pre- to post-exercise antisaccade RTs (p<.02) and was independent of exercise intensity, whereas no such change was observed for prosaccades (p=.14). Additionally, the improvement in antisaccade RTs occurred without concomitant changes in directional error or endpoint accuracy. In other words, participants did not decrease their post-exercise RTs at the cost of increased planning and execution errors. Accordingly, we propose that an exercise duration as brief as 10-minutes provides a reliable benefit to executive function and is an effect observed across the continuum of moderate to very-heavy intensities.

Acknowledgments: Supported by NSERC.