Being a busy bee doesn't have to be stress-inducing. In fact, if your daily schedule is always packed, then you're doing yourself a favor.
Although it is much evident among adults who are 50 years old and older, new research suggests that those who have a busy lifestyle tend to fare better on cognitive function tests than their less busy peers.
The Dallas Lifespan Brain study, featured in the journal Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience, sought to investigate whether a busy schedule would boost cognitive function.
To do so, researchers from the University of Alabama and University of Texas in Dallas recruited 330 healthy men and women aged 50 to 89 years old who were assessed based on brain health and cognition, structure and function.
Study participants were taken to the Park Aging Mind Laboratory where researchers observed five of their cognitive constructs:
1. Processing speed, or the ability to fluently and automatically perform over-learned tasks;
2. Working memory, or the ability to use and remember relevant information during an activity;
3. Episodic memory, or the ability to recall specific events in the past;
4. Reasoning, or the ability to apply logic;
5. Crystallized knowledge, or the ability to use knowledge, experience and skills.
To rate busyness, researchers used a test called Martin and Park Environmental Demands Questionnaire (MPED). Study participants had to rate questions on a five-point scale to assess whether their level of busyness was healthy, what their average busyness was, how frequent they felt too busy to actually accomplish all the tasks they have, and how often their tasks delayed their bedtime.
In the end, the researchers found that at any age, regardless of education, a busier lifestyle was associated with better processing speed of the brain, better working memory, better reasoning, and better vocabulary. There was also a strong link between busyness and episodic memory.
Study lead author Sara Festini said the findings show that people who report higher levels of busyness tend to have superior cognition.
"Living a busy lifestyle appears beneficial for mental function," said Festini. However, further studies are needed to determine whether manipulations of busyness have the same effect, she said.
Meanwhile, clinical psychologist Christina Hibbert, who was not part of the study, says engaging ourselves and our minds in a healthy busy lifestyle offers chances to grow and learn.
She said busy schedules that involve activities that uplift, inspire, challenge and push us in good ways are good for the mind and body.
"This actually helps our brain continue to form new neural connections throughout our lifespan," added Hibbert.
Photo: Denise Chan | Flickr