Award Date


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Kinesiology and Nutrition Sciences

First Committee Member

James W. Navalta

Second Committee Member

John C. Young

Third Committee Member

Steen Madsen

Fourth Committee Member

Kristen Culbert

Number of Pages



Exercise positively effects physical, psychological and neurological wellbeing. Though the population at large is becoming increasingly aware of the multi-faceted benefits of exercise, the majority of people fail to meet daily exercise recommendations. Largely, demands of everyday life such as work, school and family take priority over fitness. The issue therefore becomes a matter of time. In a world of media multi-tasking and immediate gratification, the challenge to health professionals becomes incorporation and manipulation of these consistencies to improve exercise uptake and adherence. Focus must shift from the idea of making additional time for exercise, to adding exercise to time already allocated for other priorities. Exercising while reviewing notes or listening to a conference call increases feasibility through decrease in time demand. This dual task notion can be taken a step further. Research suggests that not only can one perform equally well on certain tasks while exercising but they can also, in fact, increase effectiveness of certain tasks while engaged in simultaneous exercise. From here, positive affect toward exercise increases, as does enjoyment and self-efficacy. These being prime mediators of exercise adherence, adherence improves and overall health does concurrently. The overarching purpose of this dissertation was to examine physiological, neurological and psychological benefits of exercise bouts aimed at increasing cognitive function and replacing otherwise sedentary behavior. Three successive yet individual study designs were implemented in addressing this purpose.

The purpose of the first study in this series was to examine physiological and psychological stress in students following a previously established university-driven exercise intervention. The intervention occurs each semester just prior to final exams with intent to add healthy habits to a traditionally sedentary and stressful study week. The intervention was studied over two semesters, with second semester research completed as an independent study of this dissertation. Because first authorship remains consistent and methodology and results pertain directly to the progression of this dissertation, an appendix has been added summarizing protocol and results. Across semesters, stress hormones, perceived academic stress and psychological affect toward the intervention were measured. Results showed significantly lower perceived academic stress and a trend toward significantly lower physiological stress prior to final exams for students engaged in the intervention as well as significant positive affect toward the intervention itself. It was therefore concluded that a university driven exercise intervention positively effects academic stress, self-efficacy and psychological wellbeing prior to final exams.

Challenges in recruitment across semesters due to an unwillingness of students to compromise study time for exercise lead to the creation of the second study in this series. Existing research indicates increases in memory with exercise; therefore the purpose of the second study was to examine the effectiveness of studying during treadmill exercise in college students compared to sedentary study. Participants sat, walked or jogged while engaged visual vocabulary encoding. Immediate and delayed learning performance was measured, as was psychological affect of enjoyment, retention and utilization. Results showed that walking while studying to be more beneficial to vocabulary definition memorization than jogging while studying, or sedentary study when a student is familiar with studying in general. Results also showed significant positive affect for enjoyment and retention in both walking and jogging groups compared to the sedentary study. The conclusion for this study is that walking while studying improves memory consolidation and treadmill exercise while studying results improves study enjoyment and perceived retention.

While creating a habit toward health behavior in the college years is of utmost importance in sustainment throughout the adult life, the benefits of treadmill exercise and memory consolidation could prove beneficial across the age span. Working adults with little time yet an increasing awareness of their health as they age may be most interested in utilization of such. Differences in comfort and overall cognitive demand to walk while reading may vary among age groups and could affect learning performance. Therefore the purpose of the final study in this dissertation was to compare immediate and delayed retention following an acute bout of dual task treadmill walking and visual vocabulary encoding across adult age groups. This is the first study to compare an exercise-learning intervention across the adult life span and inches toward translation by moving data collection out of the lab and into a community fitness center with recruitment from the membership base. Results indicate that immediate and delayed learning performance was significantly greater in younger adults as was perceived retention. Interestingly, a high level of enjoyment and likelihood of utilize exercise learning remained similar across age groups. The conclusion of this study is that despite differences in effectiveness of simultaneous exercise and learning, people across the adult life find enjoyment in doing so and seek to utilize such behavior.


Exercise Physiology; Integrative medicine; Memory; Neurophysiology; Physical Activity; Psychophysiology


Kinesiology | Medical Neurobiology | Medicine and Health Sciences | Neuroscience and Neurobiology | Neurosciences

File Format


Degree Grantor

University of Nevada, Las Vegas




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