European Journal of Applied Physiology

, Volume 114, Issue 5, pp 1095–1105 | Cite as

Response inhibition impairs subsequent self-paced endurance performance

  • Benjamin Pageaux
  • Romuald Lepers
  • Kristina C. Dietz
  • Samuele M. MarcoraEmail author
Original Article



The aim of this study was to test the effects of mental exertion involving response inhibition on pacing and endurance performance during a subsequent 5-km running time trial.


After familiarization, 12 physically active subjects performed the time trial on a treadmill after two different cognitive tasks: (i) an incongruent Stroop task involving response inhibition (inhibition task) and (ii) a congruent Stroop task not involving response inhibition (control task). Both cognitive tasks were performed for 30 min.


Neither the inhibition nor the control task induced subjective feelings of mental fatigue. Nevertheless, time trial performance was impaired following the inhibition task (24.4 ± 4.9 min) compared to the control task (23.1 ± 3.8 min) because of a significant reduction in average running speed chosen by the subject. The response inhibition task did not affect pacing strategy, which was negative in both conditions. Heart rate and blood lactate responses to the time trial were not affected by the inhibition task, but subjects rated perceived exertion higher compared to the control condition (13.5 ± 1.3 vs 12.4 ± 1.3).


These findings show for the first time that 30 min of mental exertion involving response inhibition reduces subsequent self-paced endurance performance despite no overt mental fatigue. The impairment in endurance performance observed after the incongruent Stroop task seems to be mediated by the higher perception of effort as predicted by the psychobiological model of endurance performance.


Perception of effort Time trial Mental fatigue Running Cognitive task Stroop task 



Anterior cingulate cortex


Analysis of variance


Heart rate


Rating of perceived exertion



The authors thank Tiffany Weedon for her help with participant recruitment and data collection.

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Benjamin Pageaux
    • 1
  • Romuald Lepers
    • 2
  • Kristina C. Dietz
    • 1
  • Samuele M. Marcora
    • 1
    Email author
  1. 1.Endurance Research Group, School of Sport and Exercise SciencesUniversity of Kent at MedwayKentUK
  2. 2.Laboratoire INSERM U1093, Faculté des Sciences du SportsUniversité de Bourgogne-UFR STAPSDijonFrance

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