Cardiorespiratory Fitness is Associated with Better Executive Function in Young Women

Samuel P. Scott, Mary Jane de Souza, Karsten Koehler, Dylan L. Petkus, Laura E. Murray-Kolb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


PURPOSE: A positive association between cardiorespiratory fitness (CRF) and cognitive function has been demonstrated mainly in children and older adults. Women attending college live in a cognitively-demanding setting where optimal cognition matters but often experience declines in CRF. Our aim was to test whether CRF is associated with executive function in young adult women. METHODS: Participants in this cross-sectional study included 120 healthy women aged 18-35 years in a university setting. Each woman completed a maximal treadmill-based exercise test to determine peak oxygen uptake (VO2 peak), computerized tests of executive function, and questionnaires to assess motivation and other factors with potential to influence physical and cognitive performance. RESULTS: Overall CRF was excellent, with a sample mean VO2 peak of 44.6 ml/min/kg. After adjusting for covariates, higher VO2 peak was associated with better performance on attention (P <0.01), learning/shifting (P <0.01), working memory (P <0.01), and problem-solving (P <0.05) tasks. Likewise, when women were grouped according to ACSM fitness classification, performance on executive function tasks was poorest in women with very poor or poor CRF. Women with superior CRF performed best on executive function tasks, and performance was intermediate in women with fair, good, or excellent CRF. CONCLUSION: The findings from this cross-sectional study suggest that optimal cognition is related to CRF in young adult women. Future studies are needed to test whether strategies to improve CRF are effective in improving cognitive function.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalMedicine and Science in Sports and Exercise
StateAccepted/In press - May 13 2016
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Orthopedics and Sports Medicine
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation


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