Aerobic vs. Anaerobic Exercise: The Role of Exercise Attitudes, Frequency, and Perception of Effort in Cognitive and Psychological Benefits
Exercise has several cognitive and psychological benefits often depending on the type and duration of exercise. Aerobic exercise, such as running, is typically associated with longer completion time and lower intensity. Anaerobic exercise, such as weightlifting, involves shorter bursts of activity at higher intensities. Both types are beneficial to physical health, but cognitive and psychological effects are less understood. Long-term bouts of exercise prove most beneficial for aerobic exercise; however, it has been suggested that acute bouts of exercise may also provide benefits. Findings for anaerobic exercise are more inconclusive as various exercise types at various intervals cause inconsistencies in the benefits gained. Therefore, this study investigated cognitive and psychological benefits of different types of exercise. Additionally, we explored whether attitude, frequency, and perception of effort (RPE) affected the benefit from exercise. Participants were randomly assigned to either aerobic or anaerobic exercise and completed pre- and post-test measures on mood and cognition. Paired t-tests were run to assess differences in mood and cognition pre- vs post-aerobic and anaerobic exercise, independent t-tests to compare changes between aerobic and anaerobic exercise, and bivariate correlations to assess relationships between RPE, exercise frequency, changes in mood, and cognition. Aerobic exercise was better than anaerobic exercise at decreasing depression, tension, fatigue, and total mood disturbance (TMD), while still decreasing errors and time in Trails, as well as increasing 2-Back accuracy. Anaerobic exercise decreased depression, confusion, and Trails time. Additionally, positive correlations were seen between exercise frequency and RPE, and change in fatigue and TMD. Short-term exercise appears to be enough to benefit from exercise psychologically and cognitively.
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