Unraveling the Role of (Meta-) Cognitive Functions in Pacing Behavior Development during Adolescence: Planning, Monitoring and Adaptation

Stein Gerrit Paul Menting, Mohammed Khudair, Marije Titia Elferink-Gemser, Florentina Johanna Hettinga*

*Corresponding author for this work

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PURPOSE: This study aimed to investigate whether (meta-) cognitive functions underpin the development of the self-regulated distribution of effort during exercise (i.e., pacing) throughout adolescence. METHODS: Participants included 18 adolescents (9 girls, 15.6 ± 2.5 yr old) and 26 adults (13 women, 26.8 ± 3.1 yr old), all recreationally active but unfamiliar with time trial cycling. The (meta-) cognitive functions involved in preexercise planning were quantified by calculating the difference between estimated and actual finish time during a 4-km cycling time trial. The capability to monitor and adapt one's effort distribution during exercise was measured during a 7-min submaximal trial, in which the participants were tasked with adhering to a set submaximal goal velocity either with (0-5 min) or without (5-7 min) additional feedback provided by the researcher. Analyses included between-group comparisons (ANOVA) and within-group comparisons (correlation) ( P < 0.05). RESULTS: Adolescents were less accurate in their estimation of the task duration. The adolescents' overestimation of task duration of the 4-km time trial was accompanied by pacing behavior characteristics resembling a longer trial (i.e., more even power output distribution, lower RPE, more pronounced end-spurt). Contrary to the adults, the adolescents deviated relatively more from the goal velocity during the 7-min submaximal trial, when no additional feedback was provided by the researcher. Within the adolescent group, estimation of task duration accuracy ( r = 0.48) and adherence to goal velocity ( r = 0.59) correlated with age. CONCLUSIONS: The (meta-) cognitive functions involved in the preexercise planning and the monitoring and adaptation of the distribution of effort during exercise underpin the development of pacing behavior during adolescence. Feedback from the (social) environment can be used to aid the monitoring and adaptation of effort expenditure in adolescents.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1894-1904
Number of pages11
JournalMedicine & Science in Sports & Exercise
Issue number10
Early online date29 May 2023
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2023

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