NYIT student on a stationary bicycle and playing a video game.


Exercise Does More Than Just the Body Good

November 27, 2017

Peter C. Douris

Peter C. Douris

John P. Handrakis

John P. Handrakis

Pictured: Jessica Limato (D.P.T. ‘16) was one of the participants in the study.

We’re often told that exercising the brain is just as important as exercising the body, but what happens when you bring the two together? That’s what Professor Peter Douris (D.P.T. ’07) Ed.D., Associate Professor John Handrakis (D.P.T. ’10) Ed.D., and a group of NYIT students in the Department of Physical Therapy set out to discover in their study: “The Effects of Aerobic Exercise and Gaming on Cognitive Performance.”

“Separately, aerobic exercise and video games that utilize math skills have shown to improve cognitive function. I wanted to see what would happen if you combined the two,” said Douris.

Over the course of four weeks, 40 participants made up of 16 men and 24 women, ages 18 –30, either rode a stationary bicycle, played the video game Brain Age, or rode a bicycle AND played the game. A fourth group, the control, did not take part in any of the tasks. The researchers analyzed the results to see what effect these activities had on the participants’ processing speed, attention, and executive function (i.e., the ability to plan, organize, and complete tasks).

The group was randomly separated into four groups of 10, and each group was evaluated before and after the study using assessments including the Stroop Color and Word Test and the Oral Trails B Test.

Results showed that:

  • The group that only used the bicycle improved in all three areas.
  • The group that only played the video game and the group that rode the bike and played the video game improved in processing speed and attention, but not executive function.
  • The control group made no improvements in any area.

To explain the reasons behind these outcomes, Douris said that “if tasks approach the limits of attentional capacity, there is an increase in the overall chance of errors.” Most of us will be familiar with this phenomenon, which is known as the “dual-task deficit.” At its most basic, the concept explains why you often fail to do two things well when you do them at the same time. “Simultaneous biking and gaming may have surpassed attentional capacity limits, ultimately increasing errors during the executive function tests of our cognitive performance battery,” Douris added.

When it comes to exercise, however, the study confirms that braving the gym will give you a mental boost. “The results of the study suggest that the fatiguing effects of a combined physically and mentally challenging task that extends after the exercise cessation may overcome or limit the eventual beneficial cognitive effects derived from physical exercise,” said Douris.

The bottom line: keep on exercising. It will do the body and the brain good.