The purpose of the study was to systematically review the evidence on the effects of an acute bout of exercise on concurrent performance of core executive function (EF) during exercise in adults. Four electronic databases (i.e., PubMed, Web of Science, PsycINFO, and SportDiscus) were searched from inception dates to 30 December 2020. The literature searches were conducted using the combinations of two groups of relevant items related to exercise and executive function. Articles were limited to human studies in adults. The search process, study selection, data extraction, and study quality assessments were carried out independently by two researchers. A total of 4899 studies were identified. Twenty-two studies met our inclusion criteria. Of the 42 reported outcomes in the 22 studies, 13 (31%) of the 42 outcomes showed that core EF performance was enhanced during exercise and 14 (33%) found that core EF performance did not differ from control conditions. Fifteen (36%) found that core EF performance was impaired. Notably, improved EF performances tend to be observed during moderate-intensity exercise, whereas impaired EF performances were more likely to be observed at vigorous-high intensity. The review suggests mixed findings regarding the effects of an acute bout of exercise on concurrent performance of core EF. Exercise intensity seems to influence the effects. The underlying neural mechanisms remain to be elucidated.
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