Blakely, Megan J., Wilson, Kyle M., Russell, Paul N. and Helton, William S. (2016) The impact of cognitive load on volitional running. Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Annual Meeting, 60 (1). pp. 1179-1183. ISSN 1541-9312

The effects of physical activity on cognition and the effects of cognitive load on physical activity are complex. Both the nature of the physical activity and cognitive task may influence the interactive effects of performing a physical task while also performing a cognitive task. In a previous study examining the impact of increasing cognitive load on outdoor running speed and the impact of outdoor running on cognitive performance, Blakely et al. (2015) found running speed decreased as cognitive load increased. They also found that the impact of running itself on cognitive performance occurred when the cognitive task was itself demanding (high cognitive load). In the current study we expanded on this previous research by improving the experimental task to rule out peripheral sensory, not central or executive, interference and by incorporating heart rate measures and VO2 max estimates. Twelve runners completed five conditions, two seated cognitive tasks (one low load and one high load), two dual running cognitive tasks and one run only. Results were similar to the original experiment, as the cognitive task became more difficult, voluntary running speed decreased. Also the effects of running on cognitive performance (counting) were found only when the cognitive task was high load. Key words: Attention; dual-task; running; tone-counting; working memory.

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