Television Watching Linked to Cognitive Decline in Mid-Life

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Watching too much television and not getting enough physical activity both greatly increase cognitive decline in adults by mid-life.
Watching too much television and not getting enough physical activity both greatly increase cognitive decline in adults by mid-life.

WASHINGTON —  Not engaging much in physical activity and spending a lot of time watching television greatly increase one's likelihood of sustaining cognitive decline by mid-life.

Kristine Yaffe, MD, vice chair of research in psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco, and colleagues looked at the relationship between low levels of physical activity and high levels of television watching on cognitive function by examining 3,375 adults between the ages of 18 and 30 at enrollment who had taken part in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults (CARDIA) study.

Participants had at least three follow-up evaluations over 25 years and physical activity and television watching was measured by questionnaires over the study period.

Speaking at a press conference at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference 2015, Yaffe said that while there has been increasing evidence that physical activity is beneficial for brain health in older adults, the benefits of exercise on cognition has not been examined earlier on in life.

Adults who did not regularly participate in physical activity were nearly twice as likely to have cognitive decline by mid-life than those who did exercise on a regular basis, Yaffe reported. And adults who spent long periods of time as couch potatoes watching television were 1.5 times as likely to have cognitive decline than those who tempered their television watching.

She clarified that physical activity included exercise, as well as “how much they did in a day in terms of errands and walking, etc.” and participants were asked how long they did them for daily.

Yaffe said that the results indicate that physical activity and sedentary behaviors influence brain health even in early adulthood.

“I do think that if people understand that [lack of exercise and excessive TV watching] could impact their brain, I think that could be an important motivator,” for people to become more active, she added.

Reference

Hoang TD, et al. Abstract #2590. Early Adult Patterns of Physical Activity and Television Watching and Mid-Life Cognitive Function. Presented at: Alzheimer's Association International Conference 2015; July 18-23, 2015; Washington, D.C.

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