The acute effect of exercise on executive function and attention: Resistance versus aerobic exercise

Sharon Tsuk, Yael Netz, Ayelet Dunsky, Aviva Zeev, Rafi Carasso, Tzvi Dwolatzky, Riki Salem, Shai Behar, Arie Rotstein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

22 Scopus citations


Acute aerobic exercise was shown to enhance such cognitive functions as executive function (EF) and attention. Acute resistance exercise was also shown to enhance cognitive functions, however, only few studies directly compared these two exercise modalities. The aim of this study was to evaluate the acute effect of a typical moderate intensity resistance exercise session as compared to a typical moderate intensity aerobic session, on executive function and attention. A counterbalanced repeated measures experimental design was applied. Forty physical education students (21 women; 19 men, age = 25.7±2.84 years) were tested before and after three sessions: aerobic, resistance, and control. Each session consisted of 30 minutes of exercise or a rest. Executive function and attention were assessed by components of the computerized Stroop Catch game and Go-NoGo cognitive tests. A two-way ANOVA showed a greater increase in attention scores after the resistance sessions (p < .05) compared to the control condition. Attention scores in the aerobic sessions showed a trend toward improvement but did not reach statistical significance. Scores of EF significantly increased, both after the resistance session and the aerobic session (p < .05), but not after rest in the control condition. Our findings show that an acute session of resistance exercise increased both Attention and EF test scores, while an aerobic exercise session improved only the EF scores.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)208-215
Number of pages8
JournalAdvances in Cognitive Psychology
Issue number3
StatePublished - 30 Sep 2019
Externally publishedYes


  • Cognitive function
  • Cycling
  • Physical activity
  • Strength

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Neuroscience
  • Experimental and Cognitive Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology
  • Applied Psychology
  • Psychology (miscellaneous)
  • Psychiatry and Mental health


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