Physical activity helps to feel better and reduce the risk of chronic diseases. In addition, sufficient exercise also improves memory and thinking skills. The general advice is therefore to spend less time sitting and to move more.
Time spent in a sitting position seems to be associated with better results in knowledge-based activities, according to a surprising result of a study involving researchers from Colorado State University. The results were published in the English language journal “Psychology and Aging”.
Regular physical activity has a positive effect on memory and logical reasoning, but surprisingly, despite their lack of activity, often sedentary people perform better in vocabulary and reasoning tasks.
Effects of lack of physical activity?
In the current study, the association between sensory measured physical activity and cognitive performance was investigated in a sample of 228 healthy older adults aged 60-80 years.
Benefits of physical activity
The results of the new study suggest that the time spent sitting can be at least partially beneficial for the brain and cognition, as long as certain requirements for basic physical activity are met, the experts report.
The researchers found that adults who moved moderately to much were expected to have better thinking speed, memory and logical reasoning skills. However, the evaluated data also showed that adults who spent more time sitting performed better in vocabulary and reasoning tasks.
The association between increased physical activity and improved cardiovascular and metabolic health is well documented, according to the research group. However, the relationship between different intensities of daily physical activity and cognitive health is much less well known, especially among older adults, the researchers emphasize in a press release.
Where other studies may only use one or two tests of cognition and a general definition of physical activity, the current study required 16 cognitive tasks to be completed, allowing for a broader assessment. In addition, socioeconomic and health factors such as employment status, income levels, aerobic fitness, blood pressure, and mobility problems were measured and controlled.
However, most of the participants did not exercise to the same extent. The data show that a large proportion of participants spent on average less than 2.7 percent of their time on moderate to vigorous activities, the research team reports.
Skills such as speed of thought and memory, problem-solving and reasoning skills tend to decline as adults age. However, participants in the study who engaged in moderate to heavy physical activity scored better on such tasks, suggesting that exercise may halt some of the typical effects of brain aging, the researchers explain.
During the study, the participants wore a so-called activity tracker on their hips for seven days. The sensor recorded the daily time spent sitting or during light activity or moderate to high physical activity.
WashingtonNewsday Health and Wellness.