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The Effects of Cardiovascular Exercise on eSport Performance




Rightmire, Zachary

Type of Degree

PhD Dissertation



Restriction Status


Restriction Type

Auburn University Users

Date Available



Video games have evolved from a juvenile recreational activity into an avenue for organized competition known as electronic sports (eSports). Cognitive research identifies visual attention, memory, and task-switching as primary determinants of success in eSports. Multiple theoretical frameworks of gaming competence suggest that success in digital gaming relies on problem-solving with a focus on attention and memory. Interestingly, the same cognitive functions also improve as the result of both acute and chronic cardiovascular exercise. This uncovers a clear potential benefit of endurance exercise on eSport performance. Furthermore, results from a series of qualitative studies in eSport athletes (E-athletes) suggest that E-athletes and their employers believe exercise has a positive impact on performance. However, no research to date has observed if there is a relationship between exercise and eSport performance. Therefore, this study aimed to investigate the effects of acute and chronic cardiovascular exercise on eSport performance. A repeated measures design was implemented in this study to observe the effects of both an acute high intensity interval training (HIIT) protocol and a chronic HIIT intervention on eSport performance. A semi round-robin competition was implemented at four timepoints (C1-C4) to measure eSport performance scores as a proportion of wins accumulated to total matches played. Dependent variables of maximal oxygen consumption (VO2 max), body mass index (BMI), percent fat mass (BF%), and visuomotor performance were measured during pre- and post-testing to assess if changes in eSport performance could be explained by specific physiological or cognitive variables. Logistic regression models were then used to observe the effect each intervention had on eSport performance. Results of the logistic regression models suggest there is an effect of acute exercise (p = 0.03) and a combined effect of acute exercise and a chronic endurance training program (p = 1.9e-5) on eSport performance. The effect of chronic endurance training alone was not significant (p = 0.21). There was no significant difference in any physiological variable between pre- and post-testing for time or group. There was an effect of time on cognitive flexibility (Trails Task switch cost) (p = 0.048) for both groups. These data from this study serve as preliminary evidence for a positive effect of HIIT on eSport performance. Future research is needed to quantify the exact magnitude of these effects and elucidate the physiological and cognitive mechanisms.