The effects of acute exercise on visuomotor adaptation, learning, and inter-limb transfer

  • Jason L. NevaEmail author
  • Jennifer A. Ma
  • Dan Orsholits
  • Matthieu P. Boisgontier
  • Lara A. Boyd
Research Article


Pairing an acute bout of lower-limb cycling exercise with skilled motor practice enhances acquisition and learning. However, it is not known whether an acute bout of exercise enhances a specific form of motor learning, namely motor adaptation, and if subsequent inter-limb transfer of this adaptation is enhanced. Seventeen young healthy participants performed a bout of cycling exercise and rest, on separate days, prior to right-arm reaching movements to visual targets under 45° rotated feedback of arm position (acquisition), followed by an immediate test of inter-limb transfer with the untrained left arm. After a 24-h delay, participants returned for a no-exercise retention test using the right and left arm with the same rotated visual feedback as acquisition. Results demonstrated that exercise enhanced right-arm adaptation during the acquisition and retention phases, and transiently enhanced aspects of inter-limb transfer, irrespective of usual levels of physical activity. Specifically, exercise enhanced movement accuracy, decreased reaction and movement time during acquisition, and increased accuracy during retention. Exercise shortened reaction time during the inter-limb transfer test immediately after right-arm acquisition but did not influence left-arm performance assessed at retention. These results indicate that an acute bout of exercise before practice enhances right-arm visuomotor adaptation (acquisition) and learning, and decreases reaction time during untrained left arm performance. The current results may have implications for the prescription of exercise protocols to enhance motor adaptation for healthy individuals and in clinical populations.


Exercise Visuomotor adaptation Inter-limb transfer Motor adaptation Retention 



The authors would like to thank Natalie Wong for participant recruitment and data collection assistance.

Author contributions

JLN conceived the study, primarily collected, processed and interpreted the data, wrote and edited the manuscript and contributed to data analysis. JAM contributed to data collection, processing, and edited the manuscript. DO contributed to data analysis and edited the manuscript. MPB primarily analyzed the data, contributed to interpretation of the results, and to writing and editing the manuscript. LAB contributed to the interpretation of data, and to writing and editing the manuscript.


This work was funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC; RGPIN 401890-11 to LAB). JLN receives funding support from the Michael Smith Foundation for Health Research (MSFHR) and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR). MPB is supported by a postdoctoral fellowship, a grant for a long-term research abroad, and research grants from the Research Foundation-Flanders (FWO; 1501018N).


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jason L. Neva
    • 1
    Email author
  • Jennifer A. Ma
    • 1
  • Dan Orsholits
    • 2
  • Matthieu P. Boisgontier
    • 1
    • 3
  • Lara A. Boyd
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Physical Therapy, Brain Behavior Laboratory, Faculty of MedicineUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada
  2. 2.University of Geneva, Swiss NCCR ‘LIVES—Overcoming Vulnerability: Life Course Perspectives’GenevaSwitzerland
  3. 3.Department of Movement SciencesKU LeuvenLeuvenBelgium

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