Cognitive control in the self-regulation of physical activity and sedentary behavior

Jude Buckley, Jason D. Cohen, Arthur F. Kramer, Edward McAuley, Sean P. Mullen

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Cognitive control of physical activity and sedentary behavior is receiving increased attention in the neuroscientific and behavioral medicine literature as a means of better understanding and improving the self-regulation of physical activity. Enhancing individuals’ cognitive control capacities may provide a means to increase physical activity and reduce sedentary behavior. First, this paper reviews emerging evidence of the antecedence of cognitive control abilities in successful self-regulation of physical activity, and in precipitating self-regulation failure that predisposes to sedentary behavior. We then highlight the brain networks that may underpin the cognitive control and self-regulation of physical activity, including the default mode network, prefrontal cortical networks and brain regions and pathways associated with reward. We then discuss research on cognitive training interventions that document improved cognitive control and that suggest promise of influencing physical activity regulation. Key cognitive training components likely to be the most effective at improving self-regulation are also highlighted. The review concludes with suggestions for future research.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number747
JournalFrontiers in Human Neuroscience
Issue numberSEP
StatePublished - Sep 29 2014


  • Cognitive control
  • Executive functioning
  • Physical activity
  • Sedentary behavior
  • Self-regulation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuropsychology and Physiological Psychology
  • Neurology
  • Psychiatry and Mental health
  • Biological Psychiatry
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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