Purpose: The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of long-term (24 weeks) physical activity on attention allocated toward food in college freshmen women. Methods: Seventy-nine freshmen college women wore a multi-function pedometer for 24 weeks after being randomly assigned to a daily step level: 10,000; 12,500; or 15,000. After at least 16 weeks of intervention, participants were given a cognitive viewing task (pictures of food and flowers) with the neural response measured using electroencephalogram (EEG) and event-related potentials (ERPs). P300s and LPPs are components of the ERP indicating increased attention to stimuli. Results: There was a significant difference in daily step counts between groups. No interaction between step group and picture condition (food vs. flowers) was found for any of the three ERP (event-related potential) variables (P300 amplitude, P300 latency, LPP amplitude). The 12,500 group showed a significantly elevated response in comparison to the other groups for both food and flowers (F=8.84; P=0.0002). Additionally, subjective rating of hunger was significantly lower in the 15,000 step group (F=4.72; P=0.0030). Conclusion: It appears that long-term increases in physical activity are capable of reducing neural orientation toward hedonic food cues as well as subjective hunger ratings. In addition to increasing energy expenditure, increases in long-term physical activity may also influence the physiological drive to consume food.



College and Department

Life Sciences; Exercise Sciences



Date Submitted


Document Type





long-term physical activity, food motivation, food attention allocation, event-related potential (ERP), college students