The effect of acute exercise for reducing cognitive alterations associated with individuals high in anxiety

Matthew B. Pontifex, Andrew C. Parks, Anthony G. Delli Paoli, Hans S. Schroder, Jason S. Moser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Single bouts of exercise have been observed to exhibit therapeutic benefits for reducing affective responses associated with anxiety. However, anxiety has also been found to relate to less efficient cognitive processing as well as a greater reliance on action monitoring processes. Given the extant body of evidence demonstrating that single bouts of exercise result in cognitive enhancements; the present investigation sought to determine the extent to which exercise might be effective at reducing these anxiety-related impairments in cognition. Using a randomized within-subjects crossover design in a sample of high-anxious and low-anxious college-aged adults, measures of inhibition, attention, and action monitoring were assessed before and after 20-min of either aerobic exercise or a cognitively engaging control condition during two separate, counterbalanced sessions. Findings from this investigation revealed that both high anxious and low anxious individuals exhibited enhancements in behavioral indices of performance on an inhibitory control task with faster and more accurate responses following 20 min of moderate intensity aerobic exercise. Additionally, both high anxious and low anxious individuals demonstrated exercise induced enhancements in the allocation of attentional resources (as indexed by P3 amplitude) as well as action monitoring (as indexed by ERN amplitude). Accordingly, these findings provide evidence consistent with broad-base claims regarding the benefits of exercise, suggesting that both high and low anxious individuals appear to incur cognitive benefits.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)47-56
Number of pages10
JournalInternational Journal of Psychophysiology
StatePublished - Sep 2021
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Physiology (medical)


  • Acute exercise
  • Anxiety
  • ERN
  • Event-related potentials
  • P3


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