Aging Clinical and Experimental Research

, Volume 29, Issue 5, pp 959–967 | Cite as

Comparing the effects of an acute bout of physical exercise with an acute bout of interactive mental and physical exercise on electrophysiology and executive functioning in younger and older adults

  • Julia DimitrovaEmail author
  • Michael Hogan
  • Patrick Khader
  • Denis O’Hora
  • Liam Kilmartin
  • Jane C. Walsh
  • Richard Roche
  • Cay Anderson-Hanley
Original Article



Physical exercise has been shown to improve cognitive and neural functioning in older adults.

Aims and methods

The current study compared the effects of an acute bout of physical exercise with a bout of interactive mental and physical exercise (i.e., “exergaming”) on executive (Stroop) task performance and event-related potential (ERP) amplitudes in younger and older adults.


Results revealed enhanced executive task performance in younger and older adults after exercise, with no differences in performance between exercise conditions. Stroop (RT) performance in older adults improved more than in younger adults from pre- to post-exercise. A significant increase in EEG amplitude from pre- to post-exercise was found at the Cz site from 320 to 700 ms post-stimulus for both younger and older adults, with older adults demonstrating a larger Stroop interference effect. While younger adults exhibited overall greater EEG amplitudes than older adults, they showed no differences between congruent and incongruent trials (i.e., minimal interference). Compared to peers with higher BMI (body mass index), older adults with lower BMI showed a greater reduction in Stroop interference effects from pre- to post-exercise.

Discussion and conclusions

The beneficial effects of an acute bout of physical exercise on cognitive and neural functioning in younger and older adults were confirmed, with no difference between standard exercise and exergaming. Findings suggest that BMI, sometimes used as a proxy for fitness level, may modulate benefits that older adults derive from an acute bout of exercise. Findings have implications for future research that seeks to investigate unique effects of exergaming when compared to standard physical exercise.


Aging Stroop task Interference Mental and aerobic exercise 


Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

On behalf of all authors, the corresponding author states that there is no conflict of interest.

Statement on Human Rights

All procedures performed in studies involving human participants were in accordance with the ethical standards of the institutional and/or national research committee and with the 1964 Helsinki declaration and its later amendments or comparable ethical standards.

Informed Consent

Informed consent was obtained from all individual participants included in the study.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Ludwig-Maximillians-University MunichMunichGermany
  2. 2.National University IrelandGalwayIreland
  3. 3.Union CollegeSchenectadyUSA
  4. 4.Centre for Addiction and Mental HealthTorontoCanada
  5. 5.National University of IrelandMaynoothIreland

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