‘Multi-tasking’ boosts performance during workout

By: | Published: June 3, 2015 8:53 PM

Contrary to the belief that doing two or more things at once causes both activities to suffer, scientist have now claimed that it actually helps boost performance.

Contrary to the belief that doing two or more things at once causes both activities to suffer, scientist have now claimed that it actually helps boost performance.

In a new University of Florida study of older adults who completed cognitive tasks while cycling on a stationary bike, researchers found that participants’ cycling speed improved while multi-tasking with no cost to their cognitive performance.

Investigators and associate professors Lori Altmann and Chris Hass at the College of Public Health and Health Professions, found the results surprising as they were expecting the tasks to fail.

They originally set out to determine the degree to which dual task performance suffers in patients with Parkinson’s disease. To do this, the researchers had a group of patients with Parkinson’s and a group of healthy older adults complete a series of increasingly difficult cognitive tests while cycling.

Participants’ cycling speed was about 25 percent faster while doing the easiest cognitive tasks but became slower as the cognitive tasks became more difficult. Yet, the hardest tasks only brought participants back to the speeds at which they were cycling before beginning the cognitive tasks. The findings suggest that combining the easier cognitive tasks with physical activity may be a way to get people to exercise more vigorously.

They hypothesize that one explanation could be the cognitive arousal that happens when people anticipate completing a difficult cognitive task.

The study is published in the journal PLOS ONE.

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