The effects of acute exercise on attentional bias, memory, and mood
Cooper, Stephanie Lyn
MetadataShow full item record
The anxiolytic effects of an acute bout of exercise are well documented; however, little is known about the effects of exercise on attentional bias. Individuals with clinical and non-clinical anxiety exhibit an attentional bias towards unpleasant or threatening stimuli in their environment; therefore, it is of interest to determine if exercise also impacts the way in which individuals allocate their attention to unpleasant or threatening stimuli. In order to determine the impact of exercise on attentional bias, a narrative review was completed, as well as a series of two experiments. The narrative review summarizes the research that has examined exercise-induced changes in attentional bias and reports a lack of uniformity across studies. It is suggested that theory-based research is needed to better understand the relation among exercise, changes in attentional bias, and modification of anxiety symptoms. Following the narrative review, the results of two theory-based studies are reported. The outcomes of the two studies were compared, and it is suggested that the effects of exercise on attentional bias varies based on type of stimuli utilized during the attention task (i.e. word vs. picture). The effect of exercise on word-based attentional bias was small (d = 0.23), while the effect of exercise was small to moderate for picture-based attentional bias (d = 0.45). Changes in mood were also observed pre- to post-exercise for both experiments, which confirms the results of previous research examining the mood-enhancing effects of exercise. Lastly, differences in memory performance between exercise and control conditions observed, but were not uniform across studies; therefore, future research is needed to determine if differences in exercise-induced changes in attentional bias are related to memory performance post-exercise.