Acute cognitively engaging exergaming improves cognitive flexibility performance in adolescents.

Benzing, Valentin; Heinks Maldonado, Theda; Eggenberger, Noëmi; Schmidt, Mirko (9 February 2017). Acute cognitively engaging exergaming improves cognitive flexibility performance in adolescents. In: 9. Jahrestagung der Sportwissenschaftlichen Gesellschaft Schweiz. Zürich, Switzerland. 09.-10.02.2017.

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A wide range of literature demonstrates the beneficial effects of acute physical activity (PA) on executive functions (EFs) in children (Donnelly et al., 2016; Verburgh, Königs, Scherder & Osterlaan, 2014). Qualitative PA characteristics (Pesce, 2012) and in particular cognitive engagement (Schmidt, Benzing & Kamer, 2016) have been proposed as important factors influencing these benefits. However, in adolescents, there is limited and contradictory evidence available on acute effects of cognitive engaging PA on EFs. In general, very few studies (impaired by procedural differences) investigated the impact of cognitive engagement comprised in PA on cognition, whereof a majority did not use an operationalization of cognitive engagement (Tomporowski, McCullick, Pendleton & Pesce, 2015). Therefore, the present study aimed to elucidate the influence of cognitive engagement comprised in an acute bout of exergame-based PA on executive functions (inhibition, cognitive flexibility) in adolescents.
Sixty-five healthy male adolescents (M = 14.51; SD = 1.08) were randomly assigned to one of three conditions: (a) PA with high levels of cognitive engagement (Shape Up); (b) PA with low levels of cognitive engagement (Running); (c) sedentary with low levels of cognitive engagement (Control). Manipulation checks, including subjective (rating of perceived cognitive engagement) and objective operationalizations of cognitive engagement (heart rate variability), were applied. EFs were assessed before and after each condition using the D-KEFS design fluency test.
Manipulation check analyses (ANOVAs) showed that intensity of PA was increased equally in the experimental groups compared to control, whereas cognitive engagement was elevated only in the Shape Up group (ps < .05). With regard to executive function performance, ANCOVAs (with pre-test values as covariates) revealed that only the Shape Up condition improved performance significantly with regard to cognitive flexibility (F(2, 61) = 3.50, p = .036, Eta2 = .103), whereas inhibition performance did not differ between the three groups (p > .05).
Cognitive flexibility was immediately enhanced by acute cognitively engaging PA. Thus, to promote benefits in cognitive performance, these results underline the important role cognitive engagement seems to play in PA. In addition, this study suggests a methodological approach to operationalize cognitive engagement in laboratory and field settings. Both the subjective as well as the objective measure might be a promising tool to investigate the construct of cognitive engagement in future studies.
Donnelly, J. E., Hillman, C. H., Castelli, D., Etnier, J. L., Lee, S., Tomporowski, P., … Szabo-Reed, A. N. (2016). Physical activity, fitness, cognitive function, and academic achievement in children. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 48(6), 1197–1222.
Pesce, C. (2012). Shifting the focus from quantitative to qualitative exercise characteristics in exercise and cognition research. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 34(6), 766–786.
Schmidt, M., Benzing, V., & Kamer, M. (2016). Classroom-based physical activity breaks and children’s Attention: Cognitive engagement works! Frontiers in Psychology, 7, 1–13.
Tomporowski, P. D., McCullick, B., Pendleton, D. M., & Pesce, C. (2015). Exercise and children’s cognition: The role of exercise characteristics and a place for metacognition. Journal of Sport and Health Science, 4(1), 47–55.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)


04 Faculty of Medicine > Pre-clinic Human Medicine > BioMedical Research (DBMR) > DCR Unit Sahli Building > Forschungsgruppe Neurologie
04 Faculty of Medicine > Department of Gynaecology, Paediatrics and Endocrinology (DFKE) > Clinic of Paediatric Medicine
07 Faculty of Human Sciences > Institute of Sport Science (ISPW)
07 Faculty of Human Sciences > Institute of Sport Science (ISPW) > Sport Psychology and Research Methods

UniBE Contributor:

Benzing, Valentin Johannes, Heinks Maldonado, Theda, Eggenberger, Noëmi, Schmidt, Mirko


600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health
100 Philosophy > 150 Psychology
700 Arts > 790 Sports, games & entertainment




Anette van Dorland

Date Deposited:

21 Feb 2018 09:19

Last Modified:

05 Dec 2022 15:10


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