The Impact of Cognitive Load on Volitional Running

Megan J. Blakely, Kyle Wilson, Paul N. Russell, William S. Helton

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

7 Citations (Scopus)


The effects of physical activity on cognition and the effects of cognitive load on physical activity are complex. Both the nature of the physical activity and cognitive task may influence the interactive effects of performing a physical task while also performing a cognitive task. In a previous study examining the impact of increasing cognitive load on outdoor running speed and the impact of outdoor running on cognitive performance, Blakely et al. (2015) found running speed decreased as cognitive load increased. They also found that the impact of running itself on cognitive performance occurred when the cognitive task was itself demanding (high cognitive load). In the current study we expanded on this previous research by improving the experimental task to rule out peripheral sensory, not central or executive, interference and by incorporating heart rate measures and VO2 max estimates. Twelve runners completed five conditions, two seated cognitive tasks (one low load and one high load), two dual running cognitive tasks and one run only. Results were similar to the original experiment, as the cognitive task became more difficult, voluntary running speed decreased. Also the effects of running on cognitive performance (counting) were found only when the cognitive task was high load.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1179-1183
Number of pages5
JournalProceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2016
Externally publishedYes
EventHuman Factors and Ergonomics Society 2016 International Annual Meeting - Washington, United States
Duration: 19 Sep 201623 Sep 2016


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