Relationship Between Physical Activity, Adiposity, and Attentional Inhibition

Nicholas W. Baumgartner, Anne M. Walk, Caitlyn G. Edwards, Alicia R. Covello, Morgan R. Chojnacki, Ginger E. Reeser, Andrew M. Taylor, Hannah Diane Holscher, Naiman A Khan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: Physical inactivity and excess adiposity are thought to be detrimental to physical and cognitive health. However, implications of these interrelated health factors are rarely examined together; consequently, little is known regarding the concomitant contribution of physical activity and adiposity to cognition. Methods: Bivariate correlations and hierarchical linear regressions were conducted among a sample of adults between 25 and 45 years (N = 65). Attentional inhibition was assessed using an Eriksen Flanker task. Whole-body percent body fat (%Fat) was assessed using dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry. Daily percent time spent in moderate to vigorous physical activity (%MVPA) was monitored using an accelerometer (7 d). Results: After adjusting for significant covariates, %MVPA was a positive predictor of accuracy in the incongruent task (β = 0.31, P = .03). Individuals who engaged in greater %MVPA exhibited superior attentional inhibition. Additionally, there was an interaction effect of %Fat and %MVPA on attentional inhibition (β = 0.45, P = .04). Conclusion: The positive influence of MVPA on cognitive control persists following the adjustment of significant covariates and adiposity. Additionally, interactive effects between %Fat and %MVPA suggest that individuals with lower activity and greater adiposity exhibited poorer attentional inhibition. These findings have relevance for public health given the elevated rates of physical inactivity and obesity.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)191-196
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of physical activity & health
Issue number3
Early online dateSep 5 2017
StatePublished - Mar 2018


  • Activity
  • Body fat percent
  • Cognition
  • Interaction

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine

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