The effect of acute treadmill walking on cognitive control and academic achievement in preadolescent children

C. H. Hillman, M. B. Pontifex, L. B. Raine, D. M. Castelli, E. E. Hall, A. F. Kramer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The effect of an acute bout of moderate treadmill walking on behavioral and neuroelectric indexes of the cognitive control of attention and applied aspects of cognition involved in school-based academic performance were assessed. A within-subjects design included 20 preadolescent participants (age=9.5±0.5 years; eight female) to assess exercise-induced changes in performance during a modified flanker task and the Wide Range Achievement Test 3. The resting session consisted of cognitive testing followed by a cardiorespiratory fitness assessment to determine aerobic fitness. The exercise session consisted of 20 min of walking on a motor-driven treadmill at 60% of estimated maximum heart rate followed by cognitive testing once heart rate returned to within 10% of pre-exercise levels. Results indicated an improvement in response accuracy, larger P3 amplitude, and better performance on the academic achievement test following aerobic exercise relative to the resting session. Collectively, these findings indicate that single, acute bouts of moderately-intense aerobic exercise (i.e. walking) may improve the cognitive control of attention in preadolescent children, and further support the use of moderate acute exercise as a contributing factor for increasing attention and academic performance. These data suggest that single bouts of exercise affect specific underlying processes that support cognitive health and may be necessary for effective functioning across the lifespan.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1044-1054
Number of pages11
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 31 2009


  • P3
  • cardiorespiratory exercise
  • event-related potentials
  • executive control
  • fitness
  • walking

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)

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