Physical exercise has an impact in biasing attention to positive or negative emotional stimuli. While attentional shift to emotions varies with age, evidence is lacking on the effect of prolonged endurance exercise on age-related attentional bias to emotions. This study aims at filling this knowledge gap, by applying a dot-probe task to measure attentional bias to emotions before and after a half-marathon in healthy participants of different ages (age range 21-65 years). State anxiety, positive and negative affect were also assessed. Younger adults showed attentional bias towards anger and away from sadness after the race, supporting the hypothesis of the congruency between the high-arousing task and the associated emotion (anger) in the modulation of attention. Conversely, older adults showed a bias away from anger, likely representing an attempt to maintain an optimal emotional level after the competition. This study sheds new light on how age impacts on emotional mechanisms involved in prolonged endurance exercise and suggests that regulatory processes in response to stress may be involved differently, depending on age.
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