Printer Friendly

The Effects of Acute Yoga Versus Aerobic Exercise on Executive Function: A Pilot Study.

There is increasing evidence that physical activity can enhance cognition (Chang, Labban, Gapin, & Etnier, 2012; Etnier & Chang, 2009). Meta-analyses of both acute (or short duration) and chronic (or long term) exercise modalities of varying durations and intensities have shown positive relationships with cognition, specifically through the pathways of executive function (Chang et al., 2012; Etnier & Chang, 2009; Gothe & McAuley, 2015). Executive function (EF), a subset of cognition, is comprised of higher order functions that support goal-directed behavior (Kramer & Erickson, 2007). EF includes the abilities of working memory, inhibition, planning, problem solving, and mental flexibility and has been consistently linked with positive academic outcomes (Tomporowsi, McCullick, Pendleton, & Pesce, 2015).

Research has traditionally focused on the positive relationship between aerobic exercise and EF due to the various neurophysiological effects of exercise. The neurophysiological effects of exercise are otherwise known as cardiovascular-related effects which occur with a surge of blood flow and oxygen to the brain, increasing arousal via neural activation, specifically shown in the prefrontal cortex (Voss, Nagamatsu, & Liu-Ambrose, 2011), the increase in brain-derived neurotropic factor (BDNF), and over time, the structural changes in the brain (Voelecker-Rehage & Niemann, 2013). In the past decade, researchers have explored other types of physical activity that may also promote positive EF outcomes. Researchers are particularly interested in going beyond the cardiovascular-related changes to EF from aerobic exercise. Alternative activities such as yoga, tai chi, and martial arts are of particular interest as they all possess a unique mind-body component that includes highly engaged mental and physical control such as meditation and regulated breathing. In addition, these activities use coordinated movements that require perceptual and higher-level cognitive processes (Voelecker-Rehage & Niemann, 2013). These activities have been shown to activate subsets of EF such as inhibition, mental flexibility, and working memory through their influence on neurotransmitters, oxidative stress, increase of (BDNF), and increased vagal tone (Balasubramaniam, Telles, & Doraiswamy, 2012).

Yoga is the most common mind-body exercise both practiced and researched in the United States. It continues to become more popular in western culture as shown by its rapid growth rate from 5 million yoga practitioners in 2004 to over 36 million in 2016 (Yoga Alliance, 2016). Yoga is an ancient Indian discipline and way of life that includes the practice of fluid movement into specific postures (asana), regulated breathing (pranayama), and meditation (Taimini, 1961). The art of yoga has been researched in many areas of both physical and mental health, and studies using yoga as intervention often describe its many benefits. Physical health benefits of yoga include improved gait, flexibility and strength, and weight loss (Roland, Jokobi, & Jones, 2011). In mental health, yoga interventions have demonstrated decreased symptoms of depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, chronic pain, and blood pressure, as well as improved mental health of cancer patients (Bussing, Michalsen, Khlasa, Telles, & Sherman, 2012). While improvements in physical health are not surprising, as decades of research have identified the positive effects of chronic exercise, benefits in mental health from yoga are more neoteric. In fact, a review by Ross and Thomas (2010) examined studies using the treatments of yoga compared to aerobic exercise and concluded that yoga was just as if not more successful than aerobic activity in improving various mental and physical health-related outcomes. Yoga's unique mindfulness focus on mental and physical relaxation and deep breathing practices may provide additional psychological benefits through its calming and focusing nature, helping individuals have greater self-awareness, decreased stress, and improved mood (Bussing et al., 2012).

While yoga has been studied in these various physical and mental health domains, very few researchers have examined the links between yoga and EF. Gothe and McAuley (2015) completed a meta-analysis, and Luu and Hall (2016) presented a systematic review of these studies, concluding that both chronic and acute bouts of yoga have consistently shown small, yet positive relationships with EF. The majority of this research has demonstrated a positive EF relationship with chronic yoga bouts (i.e., 45 minutes of yoga, 5 days a week, for 3 months; Bowden, Gaudry, & Gruzelier, 2011; Telles, Singh, Bhardwaj, Kumar, & Balkrishna, 2013; Velikonja, Curie, Ozura, & Jazbec, 2010). Cognitive improvements in inhibitory control, mental flexibility, attention, and working memory were reported in children and adolescents, and adults (both healthy and with chronic conditions) after continuous yoga sessions lasting minimally 5 weeks and up to 6 months (Bowden et al., 2011; Velikonja et al., 2010). However, several studies did not find significant differences between chronic yoga bouts and comparison groups on tasks assessing inhibitory control, attention, and planning skills (Oken et al., 2004; Oken et al., 2006; Velikonja et al., 2010). Therefore, while meta-analyses show preliminary evidence that chronic yoga can enhance EF, more high-quality studies are needed to draw definitive conclusions.

While assessing effects of chronic yoga on cognition are critical for knowledge of its long-term benefits, much less is known about the instantaneous effects resulting from an acute bout of yoga. Limited research has targeted the EF of inhibition, the ability to direct and manage attention while ignoring distractions in the environment. Gothe, Pontifex, Hillman, and McAuley (2013) used a within-subjects design with 30 young adult females who underwent conditions of 20 minutes of hatha yoga, aerobic activity, and a baseline control. In the flanker task of inhibition and an n-back task of working memory, an acute bout of yoga was associated with both improved reaction times and accuracy compared to baseline and aerobic conditions (Gothe et al., 2013). Another study assessing inhibition through the flanker task showed significant improvements in inhibitory control after 20 minutes of yoga and aerobic activity in participants with multiple sclerosis (Sandroff, Hillman, Benedict, & Motl, 2015). Luu and Hall (2016) also used a within-subject design with 31 adult females with moderate yoga experience who completed 25-minute sessions of hatha yoga, meditation, and a reading control. Participants in both yoga and meditation conditions displayed superior inhibitory control over the comparison group as assessed by the Stroop task. Other acute yoga research has examined cognitive functions of working memory, attention, and processing speed. Telles and colleagues (2012) utilized a between groups comparison of 140 male army recruits who were assigned to either 45 minutes of yoga, breath awareness, or a music control. Findings from the digit letter substitution task indicated that participants experienced benefits in attention and processing speed after yoga, but not in breath awareness (Telles, Bhardwaj, Kumar, Kumar, & Balkrishna, 2012). Gothe, Hillman, and McAuley (2012) examined the benefits of acute yoga compared to acute aerobic activity on memory through free recall and recognition on 30 college females. The 20-minute yoga session resulted in superior memory performance compared to acute aerobic exercise. The results of these studies provide preliminarily evidence that an acute yoga bout provides EF benefits of inhibition, working memory, attention, and processing speed. Additionally, yoga may produce increased benefits on EF over aerobic exercise (Gothe et al., 2012; Gothe & McAuley, 2015).

Given the few, but promising studies of increased cognitive function after acute bouts of yoga, more research is needed to decipher what other types of EF abilities may benefit from a single yoga bout. No study has measured the effects of an acute yoga bout on planning, problem solving, and task switching, yet there is evidence that these EFs may benefit from acute aerobic activity (Chang et al., 2011; Murray & Russoniello, 2012). Given the robust research on aerobic activity and its positive effects on EF, researchers can use these findings to help inquire as to what benefits yoga might have on EF. Additionally, comparing the two exercise modalities may inform how various EFs respond to the cardiovascular demands of aerobic exercise versus the mind-body components of yoga. The purpose of this research was to replicate and build upon previous studies examining the effects of an acute bout of yoga on EF in young adults and to compare it with acute aerobic activity. The goal of this research was to provide evidence of whether there are multi-faceted benefits of yoga in young adults and to expand the relevant literature by examining the immediate effects an acute bout of yoga has on EF. It was hypothesized that both yoga and aerobic exercise would positively impact the EF skills of inhibition, planning and problem solving, and task switching compared to baseline; however, the yoga bout would result in the highest scores on these EF measures.



The current study was a 3x3 repeated measure design consisting of three, 1-hour visits per participant. Each participant completed three conditions (no-exercise, yoga, aerobic) with three EF tasks (ToL, Trail Making, Flanker) during each condition. The conditions were counterbalanced across participants so that possible learning on the EF tasks would not be confounded with either of the exercise conditions. The EF tasks were also counterbalanced across participants to account for any fatigue experienced by participants during the tasks.


The sample included thirty female participants ages 18-29 (M age= 19.83, SD = 4.61) at a midsized university in the Rocky Mountain region of the United States. Participants were recruited from the university's psychological sciences research pool and received credit towards their introductory psychology course for participating. Participants were mostly low-moderate exercisers and had little to no experience with yoga (See Table 1 for participant characteristics). The research protocol was approved by the university IRB.


Physical activity level. The International Physical Activity Questionnaire (IPAQ; IPAQ Group, 2002) was given to estimate the participant's current physical activity level. This self-report questionnaire asks participants to provide a seven-day recall of physical activity across various domains including walking, moderate-intensity and vigorous intensity activities. Computation of the total score is defined in METS (energy requirements), followed by a given categorical level of physical activity (inactive, minimally active, highly active). The mean and SD for all participants was estimated at 889.45 (142.06) METS which falls in the "minimally active" level.

Submaximal Fitness Assessment. The YMCA Submaximal cycle test (Golding, 2000) was used to evaluate the participant's V[O.sub.2] max, or maximal oxygen consumption--an indicator of aerobic fitness. The YMCA submaximal cycle test is a multi-workload test ranging from 2-4 stages where the participant rode consistently at 50 revolutions per minute (RPM) at increasing workloads until 75% of maximum heart rate was reached. This test time varied per participant ranging from 9-15 minutes. Continuous heart rate was monitored via Polar heart rate monitor, and rate of perceived exertion (RPE) was taken at mid intervals. Prior to the test, the participant's resting heart rate, blood pressure, height, and weight were collected for necessary calculations for predicted V[O.sub.2] max. While participants were recruited for having low levels of physical activity, predicted V[O.sub.2] max and estimated physical activity levels were used for preliminary analysis to determine if there were any differences in activity or fitness level. The estimated mean and SD V[O.sub.2] max for all participants was 33.43 (8.08) mL/(kg * min) which is classified as below average fitness level.

Flanker Task. The Flanker task (Eriksen & Eriksen, 1974) measures the EF domains of inhibition and selective attention. Participants viewed a computer screen in which each trial had either congruent flanking arrows (i.e.,>>>>>) or incongruent flanking arrows (i.e.,>><>>) and were asked to select the arrow key in the same direction as the arrow shown on the center of their screen. Participants were measured for their percentage of accuracy and the response time for each correct trial (RT). Response times and accuracy were then separated by congruent and incongruent trials as congruent trials assess selective attention while incongruent trials assess inhibitory control. The task consisted of 120 trials (60 congruent, 60 incongruent) spread across 3 blocks. Each block consisted of 20 congruent and 20 incongruent trials in random order and took approximately four minutes to complete.

Trail Making Test. The Trail Making test (Reitan, 1955) measures the EF domains of task switching and mental flexibility. The participants first saw a paper with numbered circles (1-25) on the page and were asked to connect the dots in order as quickly as possible without lifting the pencil while maintaining accuracy. Second, the participant saw a second page with circles containing both individual numbers and letters. The participants were instructed to connect the circles alternating in order of both number and letter (1, A, 2, B, 3, C) as quickly as possible and without lifting their pencil while again maintaining accuracy. Participants were timed on each from the time they put their pencil to the paper to the time they completed the task, and their score was calculated by subtracting the first time from the second time. A higher score indicates relative difficulty in task switching ability. The error rate is not recorded in this version of the test; however, it is assumed that if errors are made it will be reflected in the completion time.

Tower of London. The Tower of London (ToL, Shallice, 1982) measures the EF domains of planning and problem solving. The ToL consists of three wooden pegs of different lengths mounted on a strip of wood and three colored balls that are manipulated on the pegs to reproduce a pictured end state. The participants were asked to complete twelve of these problems, each in a certain number of moves; four 4-moves, four 5-moves, and four 6-moves. Participants were scored on their ability to correctly complete each problem (accuracy). Three versions of the test that were equal in difficulty were administered to prevent any specific learning during the participant's visits.


Upon entrance to the study, participants completed the Physical Activity Readiness Questionnaire (PAR-Q) to ensure each individual was capable of performing moderate intensity exercise. Individuals who answered "no" to all seven contraindicative-to-exercise questions were asked to participate in the study (American College of Sports Medicine, 2010). Each participant completed three 1-hour visits consisting of the non-exercise condition, yoga condition, and the aerobic exercise condition (see below). These research visits were conducted on average 6.8 days apart and took place in the lower-level group fitness room and adjoining fitness assessment office within the campus recreation center. Participant visits were conducted on an individual basis with the lead researcher performing the no-exercise and aerobic exercise conditions (lead researcher is a certified fitness specialist), and a certified yoga instructor leading the yoga condition. Both the lead researcher and assistant researchers conducted all cognitive tasks.

No-exercise condition. The no-exercise condition visit began with the administration of the three executive functioning tasks. After conclusion of these tasks, the participants filled out a demographics questionnaire that asked the participants to identify their age, gender, ethnicity, country of origin, mother's highest level of education, and year in school; completed the IPAQ, and performed the YMCA submaximal cycle test. Participants were asked to rest until their heart rate returned within 20 beats of resting before leaving the lab visit.

Aerobic condition. Participants were asked to choose their preferred RPM level and cycled for 20 minutes at a range of 70-80% of their maximum heart rate (including a 3-minute warm up and 3-minute cool down). Continuous heart rate was monitored via a Polar heart rate monitor, and RPE was tracked at five-minute intervals throughout the bout to give participants consistent feedback that they were achieving their target heart rate zone. Immediately after completing the aerobic session, participants completed the three executive functioning tasks.

Yoga condition. Participants were led through a 20-minute bout of hatha yoga by a certified yoga instructor that included the following: asanya, deep breathing, guided relaxation, and meditation (see Table 2 for yoga session breakdown). The yoga sequence was specifically designed for a beginner creating fluidity between the transitions of the poses and movements, and participants were continually guided on their rhythmic breathing. Continuous heart rate was monitored throughout the session via a Polar heart rate monitor for comparison to the aerobic session. Immediately after completing the yoga, participants completed the three executive functioning tasks.

Data Analysis

Analyses were conducted using repeated-measures ANOVAs with alpha level set at .05 to determine whether the 3 conditions (no-exercise, aerobic, yoga) resulted in differential task performance. For the Flanker task, differences in response time and accuracy were measured by a 3 (condition) x 2 (congruency) repeated measures ANOVA. Any significant results were then examined using Post Hoc analysis with Bonferroni adjustment.



Response Time. After removing errors, repeated measures ANOVA showed a significant effect of condition [F(2, 56)= 4.682), p=.013] and congruency [F(1,28)= 161.372, p<.001], which was superseded by a significant interaction effect of condition x congruency [F(2, 56)= 4.370, p=.017]. Further post hoc analysis of the interaction revealed there was a significant difference in congruent trials [F(2,56)= 6.290, p=.003] with the aerobic condition significantly outperforming the no-exercise condition (p=.021). The aerobic condition also outperformed the yoga condition, although this difference was not significant (p=.081). There was also a significant difference for incongruent trials [F(2,56)=3.754, p=.030] with the yoga condition significantly outperforming the no-exercise condition (p=.05). There was no difference between the aerobic condition and no-exercise condition (p=.161), or the yoga condition and the aerobic condition (p>.05)(See Figure 1).

Accuracy. Repeated measures ANOVA showed a main effect of condition. The test failed Mauchly's test of Sphericity (p=.015) therefore the Greenhouse-Geisser adjustment was used [F(1.58,46.03)= 5.808, p=.009]. Congruency also was significant [F(1,29)=128.92, p<.001]. There was also a significant interaction between congruency (congruent versus incongruent) trials and condition [F(1.467, 42.533)= 5.097, p=.018]. Post hoc analysis of the interaction revealed that there were no significant differences between conditions for the congruent trials [F(2,58)= 1.802, p=.174]. There was a significant effect of condition for the incongruent trials [F(2,58)= 6.161, p=.004]. Pairwise comparisons showed the yoga condition significantly outperformed both the aerobic condition (p=.02) and the no-exercise condition (p=.011). There was no difference found between the aerobic condition and the no-exercise condition (p=.526) (See Figure 2).

Trail Making Test. Repeated measures ANOVA showed a significant effect of condition (no-exercise, aerobic, yoga) on the Trail Making test [F= (2,58) = 6.616, p =.003]. Further post hoc analysis using a Bonferroni adjustment revealed that participants during the yoga condition (M=25.39, SD= 1.76) performed significantly faster on the task switching than the baseline condition (M= 34.232, SD=3.35, p=.007). The yoga condition and the aerobic condition (M=28.659, SD = 2.42) were not statistically different (p=.289) (See Figure 3).

Tower of London. There was no significant main effect of condition on the Tower of London task [F(2,58)=.399, p=.673]. (See Table 3 for Mean and SD for all EF tasks across conditions).


The purpose of this research was to replicate Gothe et al. (2013) and expand upon research examining the effects of acute yoga on executive functioning tasks, specifically tasks of inhibition and attention (flanker), task switching (Trail Making), and problem solving and planning (Tower of London). Results of the flanker task revealed that reaction time for congruent trials benefited most from the aerobic activity. The incongruent trials of the flanker task resulted in a small, but significant difference in reaction time after the yoga condition as compared to the no-exercise condition. In this task, the congruent trials measure selective attention while the incongruent trials test the EF of inhibition. These findings align with previous research by showing improvement in reaction times after acute aerobic bouts at moderate levels. These results also suggest that yoga provides greater benefits to reaction time when confronted with stimulus conflict in the incongruent trials. The flanker task also demonstrated that response accuracy significantly improved after the acute yoga bout in comparison to both the aerobic and no-exercise condition for the incongruent trials. These findings were consistent with the research of Gothe and colleagues (2013) for response accuracy. The increased EF benefits after acute yoga suggests that yoga may produce greater benefits than just cardiovascular effects of the aerobic bout. Similar effects were not observed for the congruent trials, indicating that there may be differing physical activity effects of the selective attention and inhibition components of EF.

Contrary to our hypothesis and past research, acute aerobic exercise did not produce improvement in effortful cognitive processes, as shown by the incongruent trials. Hillman, Snook, and Jerome (2003) suggested that tasks that are less effortful are unaffected by exercise since there is little need for increased efficiency in these tasks. However, tasks that require conscious cognitive control and increased effort, such as the incongruent flanker trials, would be most affected by exercise. While this theory conflicts with the results of the aerobic bout, it is supported by the results of the acute yoga (Hillman, Snook, & Jerome, 2003).

Results of the Trail Making test showed that EF abilities measured by task switching benefited from both exercise modalities, although yoga was more beneficial, with both forms of physical activity producing a significant improvement over the no-exercise condition. While this is the first study to examine acute yoga and task switching abilities, these results are consistent with research in acute aerobic exercise that showed increased improvements in the Trail Making test over control conditions (Murray & Russoniello, 2012). Also, the evidence that yoga outperforms the no-exercise condition is consistent with findings from studies of chronic yoga (Gothe & McAuley, 2015), suggesting that yoga does have the same, if not more, capacity than aerobic activity to benefit the EF of task switching.

Contrary to our hypotheses, performance did not vary per condition on the Tower of London task assessing the EF abilities of planning and problem solving. While this is the first study to examine these EFs after an acute bout of yoga, the results are contrary to the evidence found after acute aerobic exercise by Chang et al. (2011), who found that aerobic exercise improved the EFs of planning and problem solving as measured by the Tower of London compared to a control group. One possible explanation for this is the varying level of difficultly in the tasks. While the current study utilized 12 problems with 4-6 moves, Chang et al. (2011) employed 10 problems ranging from 2 to 7 moves. Perhaps the current study's version of the Tower of London task was not sensitive enough to capture the acute effects of aerobic exercise or yoga. The present findings are also contrary to the robust benefit found after 7 days/1 month of yoga in adolescent girls (Manjunath & Telles, 2001). In contrast, the findings of this study do align with those of a study by Velikonja and colleagues (2010) where no benefits were found in planning and problem solving as assessed by the Tower of London after 10 weeks of yoga intervention.

Mixed results from these three EF tasks can be difficult to interpret. However, the complexities within the conceptual definition and various methods used to define EF should warn researchers to give careful consideration to researching EF as a singular broad construct (Etnier & Chang, 2009). Different components of EFs may be unique in their interaction with various physical activity modalities to reflect improvement. Further research is needed to continue to discover how yoga interacts with various EFs.

Expansion of the research on yoga and its benefits on EF is important in our society's stressful environment. Young adults face a multitude of stresses, ranging from college demands to financial burdens, to entering the work force (among many others). Stress can impair the pathways of cognitive function and self-regulation (Ross & Hall, 2010). Stress and EF have been shown to have a reciprocal relationship, in which each imposes mutual importance on the other (Williams, Suchy, & Rau, 2009). While stress in young adulthood is probably inevitable, resilience to stress can be built through improved cognition and EF (Shields, Moons, & Slavich, 2017). Therefore, there is value in integrating the ancient Eastern practices of yoga with current research knowledge of EF. Yoga and other mindfulness practices may be viable interventions for decreasing stress through means of improved EF as it is widely available and easy to practice for almost all individuals (Ross & Hall, 2010).

EFs are important to many functional areas of our lives but particularly in achievement, which benefits from problem solving, motivation, effort, and persistence (Best, Miller, & Naglieri, 2011), and self-regulation (Hofmann, Schmeichel, & Baddeley, 2012). Additionally, executive dysfunction exists in disorders, such as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, learning disabilities, affective and mood disorders, and Autism Spectrum Disorders (McDermott & Ebmeier, 2009; Sergeant, Geurts, & Oosterlaan, 2002)--all of which are observed in the college student population. Moreover, there is robust clinical research showing the numerous benefits of yoga to mental and physical health and yielding a consensus of positive effects of yoga on stress. These yoga benefits have been demonstrated via a down-regulating effect on the SNS/HPA axis in response to stress, decreasing cortisol, blood glucose, heart rate, and blood pressure, as well as reversing the negative stress on the immune system (Ross & Thomas, 2010). This is promising for future research on yoga and EF and also suggests that many more individuals may benefit from yoga's positive effects.

Limitations and Future Research

Although this study had many strengths, there are several drawbacks. First, the sample size of this research was relatively small and homogeneous in terms of physical activity level, age, and gender, which limits the generalizability of the findings to broader populations. Future research should examine whether the same benefits of yoga are experienced with males and more diverse populations that vary in age and activity level. Within the literature of aerobic activity's effect on EF, there is a strong consensus that individuals with lower fitness levels experience greater gains in EF than their higher-fit peers. Future research should continue to address whether these EF gains are similar with varying fitness levels after an acute yoga bout and examine how long these gains remain after the bout ends. Secondly, the measurements of the ToL were narrow, perhaps hindering the sensitivity of the cognitive task. Future studies that utilize the ToL could implement more problems of varying difficulty, allow participants to proceed with the problem until the solution is reached, and time participants on each problem. Additionally, researchers could also provide more robust findings when using various measures of the same EF ability, for instance using both the Stroop task and the Flanker to assess improvements in inhibition after exercise.


The purpose of this study was to build upon the research examining the effects of an acute yoga bout on the varying EF tasks of inhibition, task switching, planning, and problem solving. While this is a relatively new approach to research on acute yoga, we utilized the extensive research in aerobic exercise to guide and compare the two exercise modalities. The findings of this study reveal that an acute yoga bout may provide benefits in inhibition and task switching, whereas an acute bout of aerobic exercise produces benefits in reaction time. As yoga continually becomes a more common physical activity practice in the United States, it is beneficial to continue research into the benefits on EF abilities that help to guide and direct our lives in a multitude of circumstances.


American College of Sports Medicine. (2010). ACSM's Guidelines for exercise testing and prescription, (eighth ed). Baltimore, MD: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

Balasubramaniam, M., Telles, S., & Doraiswamy, P. M. (2012). Yoga on our minds: a systematic review of yoga for neuropsychiatric disorders. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 3, 1-16.

Best, J. R., Miller, P. H., & Naglieri, J. A. (2011). Relations between executive function and academic achievement from ages 5 to 17 in a large, representative national sample. Learning and Individual Differences, 21, 327- 336.

Bowden, D., Gaudry, C., An, S. C., & Gruzelier, J. (2012). A comparative randomized controlled trial of the effects of brain wave vibration training, iyengar yoga, and mindfulness on mood, well-being, and salivary cortisol. Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2012, 1-13.

Bussing, A., Michalsen, A., Khalsa, S. B. S., Telles, S., & Sherman, K. J. (2012). Effects of yoga on mental and physical health: a short summary of reviews. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2012, 1-7.

Chang, Y. K., Labban, J. D., Gapin, J. I., & Etnier, J. L. (2012). The effects of acute exercise on cognitive performance: A meta-analysis. Brain Research, 1453, 87-101.

Chang, Y. K., Tsai, C. L., Hung, T. M., So, E. C., Chen, F. T., & Etnier, J. L. (2011). Effects of acute exercise on executive function: a study with a Tower of London Task. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 33, 847-865. Eriksen, B. A, Eriksen, C. W. (1974). Effects of noise letters upon identification of a target letter in a non- search task. Perception and Psychophysics. 16, 14- 149.

Etnier, J. L., & Chang, Y.-K. (2009). The Effect of Physical Activity on Executive Function: A Brief Commentary on Definitions, Measurement Issues, and the Current State of the Literature. Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology, 31, 469-483.

Gothe, N. P., Hillman, C., & McAuley, E. (2012). The effect of acute yoga and aerobic exercise on word memory and anxiety [ABSTRACT]. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 12, 127.

Gothe, N. P., & McAuley, E. (2015). Yoga and Cognition: A Meta-Analysis of Chronic and Acute Effects. Psychosomatic Medicine, 77, 784-797.

Gothe, N. P., Pontifex, M. B., Hillman, C., & McAuley, E. (2013). The acute effects of yoga on executive function. Journal of Physical Activity & Health, 10, 488-95.

Golding, L. (2000). YMCA fitness testing and assessment manual (4th Edition). Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Hillman, C. H., Snook, E. M., & Jerome, G. J. (2003). Acute cardiovascular exercise and executive control function. International Journal of Psychophysiology, 48, 307-314.

Hofmann, W., Schmeichel, B. J., & Baddeley, A. D. (2012). Executive functions and self-regulation. Trends in Cognitive Sciences, 16, 174-180.

IPAQ Group. (1998). International Physical Activity Questionnaire: Short Last 7 Days Self-Administered Format: Revised 2000. Retrieved from

Kramer, A. F., & Erickson, K. I. (2007). Effects of physical activity on cognition, well-being, and brain: Human interventions. Alzheimer's and Dementia, 3, 45-51.

Luu, K., & Hall, P. A. (2016). Hatha Yoga and Executive Function: A Systematic Review. The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 22, 125-133.

Manjunath, N. K., & Telles, S. (2001). Improved performance in the Tower of London test following yoga. Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology, 45, 351-354.

McDermott, L. M., & Ebmeier, K. P. (2009). A meta-analysis of depression severity and cognitive function. Journal of Affective Disorders, 119, 1-8.

Murray, N. P., & Russoniello, C. (2012). Acute physical activity on cognitive function: A heart rate variability examination. Applied Psychophysiology and Biofeedback, 37, 219-227.

Oken, B. S., Kishiyama, S., Zajdel, D., Bourdette, D., Carlsen, J., Haas, M., ... & Mass, M. (2004). Randomized controlled trial of yoga and exercise in multiple sclerosis. Neurology, 62, 2058-2064.

Oken, B. S., Zajdel, D., Kishiyama, S., Flegal, K., Dehen, C., Haas, M., ... & Leyva, J. (2006). Randomized, controlled, six-month trial of yoga in healthy seniors: effects on cognition and quality of life. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, 12, 40.

Reitan, R. M. (1955). Investigation of the validity of Halstead's measures of biological intelligence. AMA Archives of Neurology & Psychiatry, 73, 28-35.

Roland, K. P., Jakobi, J. M., & Jones, G. R. (2011). Does yoga engender fitness in older adults? A critical review. Journal of Aging and Physical Activity, 19, 62-79.

Ross, A. N., & Thomas, S. (2010). The Health Benefits of Yoga and Exercise: A Review of Comparison Studies. The Journal of Alternate and Complementary Medicine, 16, 3-12.

Sandroff, B. M., Hillman, C. H., Benedict, R. H., & Motl, R. W. (2015). Acute effects of varying intensities of treadmill walking exercise on inhibitory control in persons with multiple sclerosis: a pilot investigation. Physiology & Behavior, 154, 20-27.

Sergeant, J. A., Geurts, H., & Oosterlaan, J. (2002). How specific is a deficit of executive functioning for attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder? Behavioural Brain Research, 130, 3-28.

Shallice, T. (1982). Specific impairments of planning. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences, 298, 199-209.

Shields, G. S., Moons, W. G., & Slavich, G. M. (2017). Better executive function under stress mitigates the effects of recent life stress exposure on health in young adults. Stress, 20, 92-102.

Taimni, I. K. (1961). The science of yoga. Wheaton, IL: Quest Books.

Telles, S., Bhardwaj, A. K., Kumar, S., Kumar, N., & Balkrishna, A. (2012). Performance in a Substitution Task and State Anxiety Following Yoga in Army Recruits. Psychological Reports, 110, 963-976.

Telles, S., Singh, N., Bhardwaj, A. K., Kumar, A., & Balkrishna, A. (2013). Effect of yoga or physical exercise on physical, cognitive and emotional measures in children: a randomized controlled trial. Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and Mental Health, 7, 37.

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, 47-55.

Velikonja, O., Curie, K., Ozura, A., & Jazbec, S. S. (2010). Influence of sports climbing and yoga on spasticity, cognitive function, mood and fatigue in patients with multiple sclerosis. Clinical Neurology and Neurosurgery, 112, 597-601.

Voelcker-Rehage, C., & Niemann, C. (2013). Structural and functional brain changes related to different types of physical activity across the life span. Neuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews, 37, 2268-2295.

Voss, M., Nagamatsu, L, and Liu-Ambrose. (2011). Exercise, brain, and cognition across the life span. Journal of Applied Physiology, 111, 1505-13.

Williams, P. G., Suchy, Y., & Rau, H. K. (2009). Individual differences in executive functioning: implications for stress regulation. Annals of Behavioral Medicine, 37, 126-140.

Yoga Journal and Yoga Alliance. (2016). Yoga in America Study. Retrieved from

Susannah M. Moore, Eric Peterson, & Marilyn C. Welsh

University of Northern Colorado

Author info: Correspondence should be sent to: Susannah M. Moore, School of Psychological Sciences, University of Northern Colorado, 501 20th Street, Greeley, CO 80639.;

Caption: FIGURE 1 Mean Response Time (ms) on the Flanker Task for the Three Conditions

Caption: FIGURE 2 Mean Accuracy (% correct) of the Flanker Task for the Three Conditions

Caption: FIGURE 3 Mean Scores on the Trail Making Test for the Three Conditions. Lower Scores Indicate Higher Mental Flexibility or Task Switching Ability.
TABLE 1 Characteristics of Participants

Characteristic             Mean [+ or -] SD

Age in years               19.83 [+ or -] 4.61
BMI (kg/[m.sup.2])         24.42 [+ or -] 5.56
Resting BP (mmHg)          100/71 [+ or -] 9.9/8.3
Resting Pulse (bpm)        76.64 [+ or -] 12.29
VO2 max (mL(kg x min))     33.43 [+ or -] 8.08
IPAQ (METS)                889.45 [+ or -] 142.06 (minimally active)
Average HR during Aerobic  152 [+ or -] 9.74
Average HR during Yoga     84 [+ or -] 11.02

TABLE 2 Acute Yoga Session Format

Yoga Pose                                     Time

Sukhasana (Easy Pose, eyes closed)--          2 min
explanation of breathing, Ujjaji breath       1 min
Cat-Cow                                       1 min
Shvanasana (Downward Facing Dog)              1 min
Surya Namaskara (Sun salutation-A)            3 min
Warrier 1 & 2 (from Mountain)                 3 min
Tree                                          2 min
Forward fold [right arrow] seated staff pose  1 min
Butterfly (bound angle)                       1 min
Bridge                                        2 min
Corpse pose (with guided progressive
muscle relaxation--with script)               2 min
Fetal position on right side                  1 min
Sukhasana (Easy seated pose, eyes closed)     1 min
with guided meditation--read quote            1 min

TABLE 3 Mean & SD of EF Tasks across Conditions

                          No-Exercise            Aerobic mean [+ or -]
                          mean [+ or -] SD       SD
Flanker Task
  Congruent RT mean (ms)  366.46 [+ or -] 50.56  346.89 [+ or -] 31.49
  Accuracy (%)            95.11 [+ or -] 5.16    96.94 [+ or -] 4.81
  Incongruent RT          424.85 [+ or -] 51.53  409.93 [+ or -] 53.62
  mean (ms)
  Accuracy (%)            77.01 [+ or -] 13.82   80.8 [+ or -] 9.41
Trail MakingTest
  Score                   34.23 [+ or -] 18.39   28.66 [+ or -] 13.25
Tower of London
  Total score             8.53 [+ or -] 2.09     8.21 [+ or -] 2.38

                          Yoga mean [+ or -]
Flanker Task
  Congruent RT mean (ms)  358.38 [+ or -] 44.86
  Accuracy (%)            95.39 [+ or -] 5.81
  Incongruent RT          404.50 [+ or -] 59.71
  mean (ms)
  Accuracy (%)            85.24 [+ or -] 7.81
Trail MakingTest
  Score                   25.31[+ or -] 9.61
Tower of London
  Total score             8.32 [+ or -] 2.77

RT is recorded in milliseconds, accuracy is % correct response.
Trail Making Score = Trail Making B--Trail Making A.
Tower of London Total score out of 12.

Please Note: Illustration(s) are not available due to copyright restrictions.
COPYRIGHT 2019 North American Journal of Psychology
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2019 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

Article Details
Printer friendly Cite/link Email Feedback
Author:Moore, Susannah M.; Peterson, Eric; Welsh, Marilyn C.
Publication:North American Journal of Psychology
Article Type:Report
Date:Jun 1, 2019
Previous Article:The Influence of Job Candidate LGBT Association on Hiring Decisions.
Next Article:An Interview with Jessica Russo, Kelly Coker, and Jason King: Mixing Oil & Water--The DSM-5 and Family Systems.

Terms of use | Privacy policy | Copyright © 2021 Farlex, Inc. | Feedback | For webmasters |