Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Master of Science


Physiology and Pharmacology


Owen, Adrian M.


Using a hierarchical approach across three studies, the aim of my thesis was to assess the relationship between exercise and cognition. In experiment one, based on a large, diverse sample, I found that regular exercise was positively associated with reasoning and verbal performance. In experiment two, I examined whether measures of strength and cardiovascular health were related to cognition. I found that the plank (a measure capturing aspects of both strength and aerobic capacity) was associated with performance on tasks relying on verbal and memory function in young adults. However, when aerobic or resistance exercise was introduced to a group of sedentary participants (experiment three), I found neither intervention had an effect on cognitive performance. Taken together, these results suggest that exercise benefits cognition when it is a regular part of an individual’s lifestyle, however, introducing exercise for a transient period, even to those who are sedentary, provides no benefit.