Effect of a Single Bout of Acute Aerobic Exercise at Moderate-to-Vigorous Intensities on Motor Learning, Retention and Transfer

Acute exercise influences human cognition, and evidence suggests that learning can be improved. According to the cognitive–energetic approach towards exercise cognition, exercise represents a stressor that elevates physiological arousal, which, in turn, increases the availability of mental resources. However, the degree of arousal is hypothesised to have optimal and suboptimal states, and moderate intensity exercise is thus considered to be favourable compared to low intensity and vigorous exercise. The current evidence for such a moderating effect of exercise intensity on motor learning, however, appears somewhat mixed. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to explore the effect of aerobic exercise conducted with different exercise intensities on immediate practice, transfer, and 24-h retention of a motor skill. To this end, young adults (n  =  40, mean (SD) age: 23.80 (1.98) years) were randomised to exercise at either 50% or 75% of age-predicted maximal heart rate according to the Karvonen formulae. Immediately after exercising, participants practiced a high-precision golf putting task in a blocked design. Retention and transfer of skill were assessed after 24 h. Results indicated that both groups demonstrated motor learning, retention, and transfer at a similar level. Further works are thus needed to establish the specific relationship between exercise and learning and establish the factors that have an influence.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.3390/sports8020015