It is an accepted fact that not being physically active and sitting for prolonged periods of time has negative impact on health. For the first time, new research also shows that a sedentary lifestyle and the rise of screen-based activities effect cognitive performance in young adults.
Very few studies have investigated the links between physical activity in early adulthood and cognitive function later in life. This is the first study of its kind to look at sedentary behavior, TV watching, exercise and its long-term cognitive effects on young adults aged 18-30.
Researchers followed 3,247 individuals, roughly evenly split between males and females, for 25 years from 1985 to 2011. Data on their TV-watching schedule and exercise regimen were recorded every two to five years. At the end of the 25 years, each participant completed a battery of three cognitive tests.
The study found that those who moved around less physically and spent more time in front of the TV fared poorly in cognitive performances, especially in their processing speed and, regulation and control of cognitive processes, including memory, reasoning, task flexibility, problem and planning.
The researchers found that low levels of physical activity and high levels of television viewing during young to mid-adulthood were associated with worse cognitive performance in midlife. The health implications of a sedentary lifestyle are known to include a higher risk of cardiovascular disease, certain types of cancer, type 2 diabetes and obesity. Physically active people, on the other hand, are likely to live longer and are less inclined to suffer from depression.