Does exercise improve cognitive performance? A conservative message from lord's paradox

Sicong Liu, Jean Charles Lebeau, Gershon Tenenbaum

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Although extant meta-analyses support the notion that exercise results in cognitive performance enhancement, methodology shortcomings are noted among primary evidence. The present study examined relevant randomized controlled trials (RCTs) published in the past 20 years (1996-2015) for methodological concerns arise from Lord's paradox. Our analysis revealed that RCTs supporting the positive effect of exercise on cognition are likely to include Type I Error(s). This result can be attributed to the use of gain score analysis on pretest-posttest data as well as the presence of control group superiority over the exercise group on baseline cognitive measures. To improve accuracy of causal inferences in this area, analysis of covariance on pretest-posttest data is recommended under the assumption of group equivalence. Important experimental procedures are discussed to maintain group equivalence.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1092
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
Issue numberJUL
StatePublished - 21 Jul 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Cognition
  • Exercise intervention
  • Experimental group equivalence
  • False positive error
  • Gain score analysis
  • Review

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Psychology(all)


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