The effect of school-based physical exercise with different cognitive loads on executive functions

Document Type : Research Paper


Department of Motor Behavior, Faculty of physical education and sport sciences, Allameh Tabatabai University, Tehran, Iran


The purpose of this study was to compare the effects of three types of school-based physical exercises with different levels of cognitive engagement on executive functions. A total of 47 students aged 13–14 years were randomly divided into three groups: the integrated physical and cognitive exercise (IPC), peer physical exercise group (with same physical challenge) and control group (the routine physical education program). A Continuous Performance Test (CPT), the N-back test and the Stroop test were used to evaluate executive functions in pretest and posttest. The results show that the IPC group improved significantly more than the other groups on the executive functions. Accordingly, physical exercise with a higher cognitive load benefitted both speed and accuracy on cognitive tasks significantly more than the same physical activity alone. Therefore, it seems that in integrated physical and cognitive exercise, the cognitive and physiological effects of this training style interact with each other, therefore, their beneficial effects can be gradually increased, while interventions that focus only on the physical dimension would be less effective in improving cognitive functions.