Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2018

Degree Type


Degree Name



Exercise and Sport Science

First Advisor

Qin Lai



The purpose of this dissertation was to investigate the effects of acute high intensity interval training (HIIT) on postural control, information processing, motor skill acquisition, and executive function in healthy young adults. A second purpose was to compare an aerobic exercise HIIT protocol to a combined aerobic-resistance exercise HIIT protocol on cognitive function and motor abilities.


Participants (N = 60) took part in two testing sessions. The first visit served as a baseline to measure postural control (under static and dynamic settings), information processing speed, motor skill acquisition, and executive function. Participants were then randomized to either the control group, an aerobic only HIIT group (HIIT-A), or an aerobic/resistance HIIT group (HIIT-AR). During the second visit, participants performed either 20 minutes of exercise or rested for 20 minutes and then completed the motor and cognitive tasks.


No significant differences were observed between the groups on center of gravity (COG) sway during the unilateral stance test (UST) or the tandem walk test (TWT) (p > .05). For information processing speed when controlling for cardiovascular fitness (CF), the HIIT-A group (M = 219.8, SE = 6.5) and the HIIT-AR group (M = 217.2, SE = 5.8) had significantly faster reaction times (mRTs) than the control group (M = 248.1, SE = 8.1). Furthermore, the HIIT-A (M = 172.1, SE = 4.6) and HIIT-AR exercise groups (M = 171.3, SE = 4.8) had significantly faster premotor times (mPMTs) compared to the control group (M = 189.7, SE = 5.7). There were no significant differences between the exercise groups. For the motor skill acquisition task when controlling for CF, there was no difference between the groups for total performance error (E) for the baseline block. Following exercise, the HIIT-A group had significantly lower E on acquisition blocks 1-3 (p < .05). For acquisition blocks 4-5, no differences were observed between the groups. For the executive function task when controlling for CF, during single task trials the HIIT-A group (M = 582, SE = 27) had significantly faster RTs than the control group (M = 708, SE = 25) at posttest. No differences were reported between the HIIT-A and HIIT-AR group (M = 633, SE = 22). No differences were observed for overall accuracy on single task trials between the groups (p > .05). For the dual-task trials, there were no differences between the groups on RT (p > .05). For accuracy, the HIIT-A group (M = .981, SE = .01) and HIIT-AR group (M = .970, SE = .01) had significantly fewer incorrect responses compared to the control group (M = .940, SE = .01). Again, no significant difference between the exercise groups.


Findings from the study support the hypotheses that acute HIIT can elicit significant improvements on information processing speed, motor skill acquisition, and executive function. This study did not support the hypothesis that acute HIIT would improve postural control. Overall, the results from this study suggest that a short bout of HIIT utilizing bodyweight exercises may have important implications on cognitive abilities and motor functions. Acute HIIT exercise appears to be a sufficient form of movement-based priming with important rehabilitation implications. Additionally, the format of the exercise protocol used in this study may be more feasible for larger groups or settings with limited exercise equipment. Research should continue to investigate this form of HIIT as well as others in populations that would benefit from improved rehabilitation and motor learning strategies.

Included in

Kinesiology Commons