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Effects of an acute bout of aerobic exercise on cognition and academic performance in college-aged individuals with differing trait anxiety levels

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Title: Effects of an acute bout of aerobic exercise on cognition and academic performance in college-aged individuals with differing trait anxiety levels
Author(s): Mattila, Tina A.
Advisor(s): Petruzzello, Steven J.
Department / Program: Kinesiology & Community Health
Discipline: Kinesiology
Degree Granting Institution: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Degree: M.S.
Genre: Thesis
Subject(s): anxiety acute exercise cognition academic performance
Abstract: Anxiety is a prevalent issue on college campuses, and is associated with impaired cognition. Finding an affordable behavioral therapy that could enhance cognitive performance in the academic setting would be valuable. Acute exercise has been associated with both reduced anxiety and improved cognition. Purpose: The purpose of this experiment was to investigate the effects of 30 minutes of aerobic exercise on state anxiety (SA), cognition, and academic performance in college-aged individuals. Participants: Thirty college students, with high- (n=9) or low-trait (n=21) anxiety, were solicited for this experiment. Fourteen were females and sixteen were males. Methods: Participation required three lab visits, lasting 1-2 hours each. Demographic questionnaires and baseline assessments of cognitive function, academic achievement, trait anxiety, and fitness were performed during visit one. The latter two visits were counterbalanced between experimental and control conditions. The control condition involved sitting quietly for 34 minutes on a treadmill, while the experimental condition involved 34 minutes of aerobic treadmill exercise, 20% below Ventilatory Threshold. Measures of state anxiety, academic achievement, and inhibition were assessed at multiple time points afterward. Results: Reductions in SA were seen in high-trait anxious individuals for both conditions. High-trait anxious individuals had decreased SA immediately post-condition, increased SA during the cognitive tests, and decreased SA at the end of the session. As hypothesized, SA of the high-trait anxious group decreased significantly more from baseline to immediately post-exercise than it did for the low-trait anxious group (as the low-trait group had a very slight increase). Low-trait anxious individuals had less profound fluctuations in SA over time than high-trait anxious individuals. Overall, accuracy was fairly high for all tasks except for the N2-back task. RT was slower for tasks that were more difficult (i.e., incongruent and nontarget trials). Findings revealed generally greater accuracy, faster RT, and greater response variability for high-trait anxious individuals than low-trait anxious individuals on all tasks. However, these responses varied greatly depending on the condition and time of assessment. Exercise did seem to show a trend towards facilitating cognitive performance, but failed to reach significance on many accounts. However, this trend was not seen for N1-back and N2-back RT, because these were slower post-exercise for both groups. Thus, results are very inconclusive. Math SAT scores were higher after exercise than rest, for both groups. A similar trend was seen for Reading SAT scores.
Issue Date: 2011-08-25
Rights Information: Copyright 2011 Tina Mattila
Date Available in IDEALS: 2011-08-25
Date Deposited: 2011-08

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