An active body for an active mind

6 June 2018

Like our body, our brain deteriorates as we age. While some cognitive decline is inevitable, some may be preventable.

Smoking, alcohol consumption, physical activity and dietary patterns are all factors that have been linked to brain health. Given that a number of health habits are formed in younger years and maintained into adulthood, it’s useful to understand how behaviours that start early on and are sustained over a long time period may affect brain health later in life.

Researchers examined the association between long-term physical activity patterns and television viewing time in young adulthood and brain function in midlife. Over 3000 participants aged between 18 and 30 years at the beginning of the study were followed up over a 25 year period.

Long-term physical activity patterns were assessed in addition to time spent watching TV. At 25 years, researchers conducted three cognitive tests that assessed processing speed (ability to perform simple, repetitive cognitive tasks quickly and automatically), executive function (mental skills that assist people in completing tasks and achieving goals) and verbal memory (memory of words and other items relating to language).

Participants with low levels of physical activity and high levels of television viewing in young to mid adulthood had poorer cognitive performance in mid-life. This was particularly relevant to processing speed and executive function.

Implications

Young adulthood is an important time in life to make and maintain healthy behaviours. In the modern age of technology, it’s important to make an effort to get up and active throughout the day. This includes monitoring screen time and ensuring that you’re spending part of the day on your feet from your computer.

Other behaviours like not smoking, moderating alcohol intake and have a diet rich in fruits and vegetables will also go a long way to promote healthy ageing.

Last Reviewed: 6 June 2018
© Norman Swan Medical Communications.

References

Hoang, T et al. (2016). Effect of early Adult Patterns of Physical Activity and Television Viewing on Midlife Cognitive Function. JAMA Psychiatry 73(1): 73 – 79. doi: 10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2015.2468.