If your evenings (or days) are spent parked in front of the tube, take note: The couch-potato lifestyle can slow brain function decades later, according to a new study published in JAMA Psychiatry.
Over a 25-year period, researchers tracked more than 3,200 men and women who were all about 25-years-old when the study began. The participants completed lifestyle questionnaires and mental-function tests throughout the study. "We found that low physical activity and high TV-watching in young adulthood were associated with worse cognitive function [in middle age],” says Tina Hoang, a staff research associate with the Northern California Institute for Research and Education at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center.
This new study adds to the mounting evidence pointing to the harmful health effects of being couchbound. Most hard to ignore is that sedentary behavior causes serious medical problems. For instance, a study found that watching three to four hours of TV per day significantly increases risks for conditions such as cancer, heart disease, diabetes, influenza, pneumonia, Parkinson’s disease and liver disease, as reported in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.
On the flip side, science has discovered that people who are physically active have far fewer medical issues and live longer. Studies have even shown that active people are less likely to develop depression. There’s also strong evidence that exercise offers exceptional cognitive benefits, namely improving or maintaining brain function.
In lieu of dedicating your time to House marathons, get moving. As numerous medical studies have shown, simply walking 10 or 15 minutes every day is the easiest way to stay healthy. One study found that walking in a natural setting for 90 minutes benefits the brain, reducing blood flow to the the part of the brain where bad or depressing thoughts occur. Walking also improves cardiac risk factors such as cholesterol, blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, vascular stiffness and inflammation and mental stress, according to Harvard Men’s Health Watch. “Walking doesn’t get the respect it deserves,” the report stated. Also, count every daily activity that gets you moving—walking to the water cooler, taking the stairs, a quick walk at lunch time—because there are cumulative effects. Promise!