Ego depletion and persistent performance in a cycling task

Chris Englert * and Wanja Wolff **

(*) Institute of Sports and Sports Sciences University of Heidelberg, Germany
(**) University of Potsdam, Germany


Englert, C., Wolff, W. (2015). Ego depletion and persistent performance in a cycling task. International Journal of Sport Psychology, 46(2), 137-151. doi:10.7352/IJSP.2015.46.137


We tested the assumption that persistent performance in an exhausting indoor cycling task would depend on momentarily available self-control strength (N = 20 active participants). In a within-subjects design (two points of measurement, exactly seven days apart), participants’ self-control strength was experimentally manipulated (depletion: yes vs. no; order counterbalanced) via the Stroop test before the participants performed a cycling task. In line with our hypothesis, hierarchical linear modelling (HLM) revealed that participants consistently performed worse over a period of 18 minutes when they were ego depleted. In addition, HLM analysis revealed that depleted participants invested less effort in the cycling task, as indicated by their lower heart rate. This effect escalated over time, as indicated by a time × condition interaction. These results indicate that self-control strength is necessary to obtain an optimal level of performance in endurance tasks requiring high levels of persistence. Practical implications are discussed.

Keywords: Cycling, Ego-depletion, Hierarchical linear modeling, Self-control, Self-regulation