Effects of high-intensity interval exercise and moderate-intensity continuous exercise on executive function of healthy young males


PURPOSE: This study compared the executive function (EF) performance induced by moderate-intensity continuous exercise (MICE) versus high-intensity interval exercise (HIIE), under two exercise modalities (i.e., running vs. cycling), and explore whether the changes in EF performance were related to the hemodynamics response of cerebral prefrontal area of the brain. METHODS: In a randomized cross-over design, 16 male participants completed 4 main trials, i.e., 40 minutes of moderate-intensity continuous running (MICR) or cycling (MICC) with 60% maximal oxygen consumption (VO(2max)), 33 minutes of high-intensity interval running (HIIR) or cycling (HIIC). For HIIR or HIIC trials, the exercise intensity was 60% VO(2max) for the first 5 minutes, followed by four 4-minute bouts of exercise at 90% VO(2max), separated by 3-minute active recovery at 60% VO(2max). EF was assessed via the Eriksen Flanker task (EFT) before (Pre), immediately after (Post 0), and 10 minutes after exercise (Post 10). Functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) measured oxygenated hemoglobin (O(2)Hb) and deoxygenated hemoglobin (HHb) concentrations in the prefrontal area. Each main trial measured the concentrations of blood glucose and lactate, heart rate, and rate of perceived exertion. RESULTS: (1) Compared to the reaction time in EFT during the pretest, the corresponding reaction time was shorter at Post 10 (P < 0.01) but not at Post 0 (P = 0.06). Specifically, reaction time was shorter at Post 10 than that in the pretest in HIIC (P = 0.04), MICC (P = 0.01), and HIIR (P < 0.01) but not MICR. (2) The fNIRS results revealed that O(2)Hb concentrations in the left dorsolateral prefrontal cortex area were much lower during Post 10 than during the pretest. (3) The blood lactate concentrations were not associated with EF performance regarding both accuracy and reaction time. CONCLUSION: Compared to the pretest, EF was greater after the 10-minute rest during recovery but not immediately after exercise. The different HIIE or MICE protocols adopted in the present study may elicit minor differences regarding their effects on EF.

Physiology & Behavior