Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Health, Sport and Exercise Science (PhD)

Degree Level



Health, Human Performance and Recreation


Cathy D. Lirgg

Committee Member

Paul Calleja

Second Committee Member

Jack Kern

Third Committee Member

Wen-Juo Lo


Exercise, Memory, Moderate Intensity, Physical Activity, Temporal, Working Memory


An ample amount of research suggests that increases in physical activity in young adults could help improve memory and cognitive functions which may aid in academic success (Johnson & Loprinzi, 2019; Perini et al., 2016). A sufficient working memory is critical to learning because it allows us to temporarily store and compare multiple informational items at one time to form a new concept or solve a problem (Cowan, 2013). The purpose of this study was to examine the temporal effects of acute moderate intensity physical activity on working memory in young adults. This study utilized a within-groups (repeated measures) cross-over experimental design. Each participant completed three different protocols on three separate visits. The three visits included the following protocols: (1) a control visit with no physical activity prior to working memory testing, (2) 15 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity immediately (5 min) prior to working memory testing, (3) 15 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity 30 minutes prior to working memory testing. Physical activity intensity was measured by monitoring participants heart rate and rate of perceived exertion (RPE) throughout the testing protocol. Participants walked at a brisk pace on a treadmill for 15 minutes. Working memory was assessed using the automated version of the operation span task. A total of 20 participants were recruited for this study. Participants ranged from 19 to 34 years of age, with the average being 22.20 years. The proportion of male and female participants was equal, with 10 males and 10 females. A one-way within-subjects RM-ANOVA was conducted to compare the temporal effects of physical activity on working memory. The results of the RM-ANOVA showed that no significant differences in working memory scores were found for the three protocols. Previous research suggests acute moderate intensity physical activity has a positive effect on working memory performance. However, the bulk of these studies utilized between subjects designs and varied the type of working memory test conducted. Further research should focus on within subjects designs and should consider including all three working memory span tasks (operation, counting, and reading) to assess working memory performance. If future research, with more standardized designs, finds that acute physical activity does have an effect on working memory, it could provide evidence as to when or if people should perform moderate intensity physical activity to improve working memory capacity.