Binge television watching and lack of physical activity as a young adult may take a toll on cognitive ability in the future, a new study warns. The decline in brain functioning may occur earlier than scientists had thought.
In a new study published in the journal JAMA Psychiatry, researchers from the University of California, San Francisco found that young adults, who lack physical activity and watched the television more than the usual, had lower scores in cognitive tests when they reached middle age.
However, one alarming finding shows that those individuals who reported watching the television for more than three hours a day and performing less than two and a half hours a week of physical activity, had the worst decline in cognitive functioning which kick started even before they were middle-aged.
"Then people who had both low physical activity and high TV had even worse performance. It was an even bigger effect," Dr. Kristine Yaffe, a psychiatrist at University of California, San Francisco and lead author of the study said.
To land to their findings, the researchers followed 3,247 participants aged 18 to 30 years old to assess television viewing and physical activity during repeated visits over 25 years. After the study period, cognitive function was evaluated using three tests that will assess processing speed, executive function and verbal memory.
"There are so many more opportunities for sitting now that it's even more of a concern," said co-author Tina D. Hoang of the Northern California Institute for Research and Education at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, San Francisco said in a press release.
She said that when she started the study in the 1980s, there are fewer opportunities for sedentary lifestyle than what people have today. They only had television sets in the past but today, more people are sitting down for hours using computers, mobile phones, tablets and other gadgets.
"High television viewing and low physical activity in early adulthood were associated with worse midlife executive function and processing speed," the authors concluded in the study.
"This is one of the first studies to demonstrate that these risk behaviors may be critical targets for prevention of cognitive aging even before middle age," they added.
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