Too Much TV Contributes to Cognitive Decline

woman watching tvMost experts agree that people who move more and sit less have improved brain health. Home Care Assistance, pioneer of the Cognitive Therapeutics Method™, has also written on the subject matter in a blog titled “Are You Sitting Too Much? 5 Tips to Reduce Sedentary Habits”. Now a recent study has uncovered that sitting too much and watching television increases the risk of cognitive decline and dementia starting at a young age.

Researchers at the Northern California Institute for Research and Education studied data from over 3,200 adults between the ages of 18 and 30 at the beginning of the study. Participants were given an exam every two to five years along with questionnaires on their TV and exercise habits over the course of 25 years. They found that the individuals who watched the most television, averaging three or more hours per day, and did less than two and a half hours of physical activity a week had the worst rates of cognitive decline.

Lead author Tina Hoang and her co-authors, including Dr. Kristine Yaffe, professor at the University of California San Francisco’s School of Medicine, found that people who watched a lot of television and exercised very little had weaker working memories, slower processing speeds and poorer executive functioning. Executive functioning abilities include reasoning, judgement, cognitive flexibility and the ability to plan or solve problems.

Overall, participants with high TV viewing time and low physical activity levels were more than twice as likely to do poorly on tests assessing cognitive function. Although previous studies have linked a sedentary lifestyle to cognitive decline in older adults, it now appears that the combination of inactivity and TV can quickly mold younger brains as well. The good news is that physical and cognitive activity later in life can still protect the brain by increasing synaptic plasticity.

Though this was purely an observational study and there may be other factors influencing the risk for cognitive decline, such as diet or stress levels, the research team hopes to investigate further. By studying younger adults, they hope to test the effectiveness of programs that aim to improve cognitive functioning in later years. Until then, ditch the TV for 15-20 minutes and take a walk outside to improve your brain health!