Impact of Exercise and Mindfulness Activities on Cognitive Performance

Kayla Setzer


Can short-term interventions improve the cognitive performance of college students? Prior research has demonstrated that activities such as exercise and mindfulness are beneficial for managing stress, with some studies indicating positive impacts on cognitive functions as well. However, most studies have examined effects of consistent aerobic exercise or sustained meditation practice rather than shorter exposure to such activities. This research compares the impact of different 30-minute activities on cognitive tasks of memory, attention, and reading comprehension, all areas relevant to effective studying. The study was conducted with first-year college students enrolled in a first-year seminar. Following a 20-minute pretest measuring performance on the cognitive tasks, approximately 130 participants were randomly assigned to one of four intervention groups: exercise (brisk walking), mindfulness (guided meditation), origami (constructing 3-4 models), or a control. The control group was instructed to engage in social media browsing or texting since these are typical behaviors that occur during students’ study or class breaks. The interventions were followed by a 20-minute posttest, made up of different versions of the same cognitive tests. Pretest and posttest performance will be compared for each individual; intervention group performance will also be compared.  It is anticipated that the exercise, mindfulness, and origami groups will all result in increased scores on cognitive tasks after completing the interventions. The findings have implications for helping first-year students develop productive study routines and taking breaks that assist in maintaining focus and attention.


Cognitive Performance; Exercise; Mindfulness

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