Integrated cognitive endurance training to improve physical performance in an endurance test: a pilot study
Purpose – The purpose of this pilot project was to determine whether an integrated, cognitive endurance and physiological training intervention improved performance on a specific time trial task in comparison to physiological training in isolation.
Methods – The participants (n=16) were recruited from a premier grade rugby union competition during their regular pre-season training period. Participants completed an aerobic performance task (1.2-km shuttle run test) at the start of the intervention. They then completed four weeks of either integrated cognitive endurance and physiological training (CET) or physiological training (PT). The CET undertook an n-back 2-back task simultaneously whilst conducting the physiological training session. Both groups conducted identical physical conditioning sessions twice per week during weekly team training sessions. However, the CET group had the addition of the n-back 2-back task integrated into their training. At the completion of the four-week intervention both groups were re-tested on the 1.2km SRT to determine whether any changes in performance were evident.
Results – Analysis of the data revealed that there was no statistically significant difference in performance between the CET group and the PT group (p=.485). The mean pre-test performance data for the two groups was 323 seconds and 312 seconds for the CET and PT groups, respectively. Post-test mean times were 311 seconds and 303 seconds for CET and PT groups, respectively. The mean change in performance times was 12 seconds (3.7%) and 9 seconds (2.5%) for the CET and PT groups, respectively.
Conclusion – Although the results did not reveal statistically significant changes between the CET and PT groups, there are a number of useful observations that may explain the outcomes. Despite the groups being randomly allocated at the beginning of the research, the PT group was significantly faster at baseline (p < 0.05) and had a much larger standard deviation than the CET group (33 v 16 secs). Consequently, the two groups were not evenly matched at the beginning of the intervention. Therefore, it is likely that any statistical findings may have been masked. The CET group did improve beyond the PT group by 3 seconds (approximately 1%), which is considered of practical importance. For future research, an extended intervention program should be used. A minimum of six-weeks is recommended. Further, participant groups should be pseudo-randomised to ensure there are no marked differences in their baseline performance measures.