Investigating Ecological Momentary Assessed Physical Activity and Core Executive Functions in 18- to 24-Year-Old Undergraduate Students

Ayva-Mae Gilmour*, Mhairi J. MacDonald, Ashley Cox, Stuart J. Fairclough, Richard Tyler*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (journal)peer-review

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Although evidence for young children (<10) and older adults (>64) highlights an association between physical activity (PA) and executive functions (EFs), there is a paucity of research on adolescents aged 18–24 years. Thus, this study examined the associations between PA and EF and the difference in EF between individuals who achieve the moderate-to-vigorous (MVPA) guidelines and those who do not. Forty-seven participants engaged in a Stroop task, a reverse Corsi-block test, and a task-switching test, to measure inhibition, working memory, and cognitive flexibility, respectively. An ecological momentary assessment (EMA) was used to determine the participant’s MVPA and step count, through the “Pathverse” app. Multiple regressions were run to predict the task-switch cost, the Stroop effect, and the backward Corsi span from time spent in MVPA. A two-way ANCOVA examined the effects of achieving the MVPA guidelines on EF. MVPA and step count did not significantly predict EF. There were no significant differences in EF between participants achieving the MVPA guidelines and those that did not. Time spent in MVPA and step count were not significantly associated with working memory, cognitive flexibility, or inhibition in adolescents. Further research is warranted to understand other factors that may significantly affect EF, within and outside an individual’s control.
Original languageEnglish
Article number6944
Pages (from-to)1-17
JournalInternational Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health
Issue number20
Early online date19 Oct 2023
Publication statusPublished - 19 Oct 2023


  • physical activity
  • executive function
  • working memory
  • inhibition
  • cognitive flexibility
  • ecological momentary assessment
  • guidelines
  • Pathverse
  • Exercise/psychology
  • Humans
  • Child, Preschool
  • Ecological Momentary Assessment
  • Young Adult
  • Stroop Test
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Executive Function/physiology
  • Memory, Short-Term
  • Child


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