Bound Volume Number

Volume V

Degree Type

Honors Capstone Project

Date of Submission

Spring 5-2016

Capstone Advisor

Kevin Heffernan

Capstone Major

Health and Wellness

Capstone College


Audio/Visual Component



resistance exercise

Capstone Prize Winner


Won Capstone Funding


Honors Categories

Sciences and Engineering

Subject Categories



Introduction: The brain is impacted by increases in the stiffness of large extracranial vessels such as the aorta. Increased aortic stiffness has been shown to be associated with reduced cognitive function. While resistance exercise (RE) is known to be beneficial for overall health, one bout of RE acutely increases aortic stiffness. This study examined whether increased aortic stiffness from an acute bout of RE is associated with decreased cognitive function. Methods: Twenty participants (20±1 years; gender balanced) were studied on two separate occasions with one visit serving as the exercise condition and the other as a non-exercise control condition. Each visit consisted of two sets of cognitive testing separated by either an acute bout of RE or a non-exercise control condition (sitting, watching an emotionally neutral video). Cognitive function was assessed as reaction time and accuracy during memory, number matching and attention tasks. Aortic stiffness was measured via pulse wave velocity (PWV) using a brachial oscillometric device. Results: There was a condition-by-time interaction for PWV (p<0.05) driven by a significant 10.2% increase in PWV following RE (p<0.05) with no change in PWV following the non-exercise control (p>0.05). There were condition-by-time interactions for congruent and incongruent average reaction times for correct answers (p<0.05) driven by a significant decrease in reaction times following RE (p<0.05) with no change in reaction times following the non-exercise control (p>0.05). There were no other significant changes in cognitive performance. Conclusion: These results suggest that although acute RE increases aortic stiffness, shown by an increase in PWV, it does not detrimentally impact cognitive function, and even improved two measures of executive function. Additional studies are needed to investigate the chronic effects of RE training on arterial function and cognition.

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