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Thesis Format



Master of Arts




Prapavessis, H.


Caffeine is one of the most widely used psychoactive substances worldwide. Although caffeine elicits cognitive benefits, there are concerns regarding caffeine’s effects on certain health domains. Acute, aerobic exercise has been shown to improve cognition. The effects of aerobic exercise in comparison to caffeine on working memory (WM) in non-caffeine and caffeine consumers remains unknown. Furthermore, the effects of aerobic exercise in reducing caffeine withdrawal symptoms has yet to be examined. In Phase I, twenty-nine non-caffeine and thirty caffeine consumers completed a WM assessment, followed by aerobic exercise and caffeine administration (counterbalanced). In Phase II, twenty-five caffeine consumers underwent a WM assessment and reported caffeine withdrawal symptoms following a 12-hour deprivation period. Aerobic exercise and caffeine administration improved WM accuracy in both types of consumers and reduced caffeine withdrawal symptoms. WM performance was not reduced following caffeine deprivation, hence whether exercise and caffeine could restore WM was not tested.

Summary for Lay Audience

Caffeine is found in a wide variety of beverages and foods including coffee, tea, soft-drinks, energy-drinks, chocolate, and medications. Many individuals consume caffeine daily to feel alert. Caffeine improves aspects of cognition, which refers to our ability to acquire and utilize information. Furthermore, caffeine improves feelings of energy and mood. However, caffeine consumption in certain individuals can have negative health effects such as increased anxiety and muscle tremors. Caffeine consumption has also been linked to some negative health effects for pregnant women and their fetuses, such as delayed growth. Another concern with caffeine consumption is withdrawal symptoms, which occur when a regular consumer does not consume caffeine. Withdrawal symptoms can include headaches, tiredness, decreased mood, irritability, and difficulty concentrating. Thus, it is important to determine if there is an alternative for caffeine that can improve cognition, energy, and mood, without the negative health effects. The primary aim of this project was to determine whether twenty minutes of brisk walking would be comparable to ingesting caffeine on a task that measures your ability briefly hold and update information in your mind. The secondary aim was to determine whether twenty minutes of brisk walking would be comparable to ingesting caffeine in reducing withdrawal symptoms after abstaining from caffeine for 12 hours. Our findings suggest brisk walking for 20 minutes can improve cognition and help reduce caffeine withdrawal symptoms. This research could have an impact on our understanding of the relationship between aerobic exercise and cognition, as well as how we can best use aerobic exercise to improve the overall health and well-being of individuals.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.