Objectives: In two experiments, we investigated the effects of acute moderate-intensity exercise on aspects of executive function in adolescents. Design: An experimental design was used. Methods: Fifty-five Japanese adolescents (Experiment 1: N=28; Experiment 2: N=27) performed a modified flanker task and a modified n-back task to assess inhibitory control and working memory before, during, and after walking on a treadmill at moderate intensity (Experiment 1: 60% maximal heart rate; Experiment 2: 70% maximal heart rate). In a separate session, the same testing sequence was administered while participants sat in a chair. Result: The results revealed that reaction time for working memory increased during exercise in both experiments, while response accuracy decreased during exercise only at 70% maximal heart rate. Moderate intensity exercise had no substantial effect on inhibition control. Following cessation of the exercise, no effects were observed for either executive function assessment. Conclusion: These results indicate that moderate intensity exercise selectively affects executive function in adolescents. Further, during physical activity, adolescents maintain inhibitory control, but their working memory declines. Further research is required to reveal the mechanisms underlying this phenomenon and to expand beyond the laboratory setting to the areas of sports and physical activities of daily living.
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