Health, Exercise, and Sports Sciences ETDs

Publication Date

Fall 12-1-2022


Objective: The purpose of the present study was to determine whether six weeks of home-based high-intensity interval training versus six weeks of moderate-intensity walking improves cognition, depression, and anxiety in women that are overweight or obese. Design: A randomized control trial design. Subjects: Twelve sedentary women characterized as overweight or obese were randomized into either a six-week home-based high-intensity interval training (HIIT, n = 6, 26.6 ± 8.9 years, 37.4 ± 4.9% body fat) group or a six-week moderate-intensity walking (Walk, n = 6, 22.5 ± 3.7 years, 40.2 ± 4.1% body fat) group. Main Measures: Pre- and post-intervention, participants completed the following: 1) Air displacement plethysmography (body fat analysis); 2) Aerobic fitness test (VO2max); 3) Beck depression inventory-II (BDI-II), state-trait anxiety inventory (STAI-S, STAI-T), three-factor eating questionnaire (TFEQ); and 4) Cognitive performance test battery with functional near-infrared spectroscopy (fNIRS) of the prefrontal cortex. A two-factor repeated measures analysis of variance (ANOVA) was used to measure each variable of interest. Results: No changes in body fat or VO2peak were observed in either group from pre- to post-intervention. No within or between group differences were observed for performance on cognitive tests assessing cognitive interference, processing speed, inhibitory control, or executive function. A significant interaction was observed for episodic memory from pre- to post-intervention suggesting that the walk group (58.7 ± 7.4 to 73.7 ± 2.1), but not HIIT group (62.5 ± 15.5 to 63.3 ± 12.5), improved significantly following the six-week intervention. A significant improvement from pre- to post-intervention in BDI-II was observed in both the HIIT group (12.7 ± 4.3 to 6.0 ± 4.8) and walk group (17.5 ± 10.2 to 9.8 ± 9.0). Similarly, a significant improvement in STAI-S and STAI-T was observed from pre- to post-intervention in the HIIT group (STAI-S: 39.7 ± 8.6 to 28.7 ± 3.1, STAI-T: 45.8 ± 7.7 to 36.8 ± 5.0) and walk group (STAI-S: 37.0 ± 11.3 to 37.0 ± 11.3, STAI-T: 49.2 ± 14.8 to 41.8 ± 10.9). Conclusion: Findings from the present study indicate that six-weeks of home-based HIIT did not contribute to cognitive improvements across any cognitive domains assessed. Six-weeks of community-based walking contributed to cognitive improvements only in episodic memory. Both groups saw significant improvements in depression (as assessed with BDI-II) and both state- and trait- anxiety (as assessed with STAI). These results suggest that women characterized as overweight or obese may primarily yield mood but not cognitive-related benefits in response to six-weeks of aerobic exercise at either a high- or moderate-intensity level. Additional research is warranted to explore whether home-based exercise interventions of durations longer than six-weeks promote cognitive improvements.


Exercise, Cognition, Obesity, Depression, Anxiety, Overweight

Document Type




Degree Name

Physical Education, Sports and Exercise Science

Level of Degree


Department Name

Health, Exercise, and Sports Sciences

First Committee Member (Chair)

Christine Mermier

Second Committee Member

Micah Zuhl

Third Committee Member

Ann Gibson

Fourth Committee Member

Len Kravitz