Aerobic Exercise Enhances Cognitive Flexibility

  • Steven Masley
  • Richard Roetzheim
  • Thomas Gualtieri


Introduction Physical activity is believed to prevent cognitive decline and may enhance frontal lobe activity. Methods Subjects were 91 healthy adults enrolled in a wellness center. Over a 10 week intervention, controls were aerobically active 0–2 days per week. Half the intervention group was active 3–4 days/week and half 5–7 days/week. Outcome measures included memory, mental speed, reaction time, attention, and cognitive flexibility. Results Neurocognitive data were analyzed by repeated measures comparing minimal aerobic exercise (the control group) to moderate aerobic exercise (3–4 days/week), and to high aerobic exercise (5–7 days/week). Initial analyses noted significant improvements in mental speed (p = .03), attention (p = .047), and cognitive flexibility (p = .002). After controlling for age, gender, education, and changes in psychomotor speed, only cognitive flexibility still showed significant improvements (p = .02). Conclusion Over a 10 week period, increasing frequency of aerobic activity was shown to be associated with enhanced cognitive performance, in particular cognitive flexibility, a measure of executive function.


Exercise frequency Cognition Executive function Cognitive performance Memory 



We wish to thank St Anthony’s Health Care in St Petersburg, Florida for funding and supporting this study at the Carillon Wellness Center, in particular Gil Peri and Wendy Weaver. We are also grateful to the Morton Plant Hospital library staff and research team, including Karen Roth, Sharon Phillips, Meg Kanuck, and Jeanne Pitman.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Steven Masley
    • 1
    • 2
  • Richard Roetzheim
    • 2
  • Thomas Gualtieri
    • 3
  1. 1.Masley Optimal Heatlh CenterSt. PetersburgUSA
  2. 2.Department of Family MedicineUniversity of South FloridaTampaUSA
  3. 3.North Carolina Neuropsychiatry ClinicsChapel HillUSA

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