Putting your feet up and relaxing life for just a few extra minutes each day is associated with less brain power, according to a new study published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.
Researchers found that losing just six or seven minutes a day from sedentary activity — or even low-intensity activity — decreases cognitive function.
Conversely, spending more time each day doing moderate-to-vigorous physical activity increases brain efficiency. In particular, this level of activity appears to support working memory and mental processes such as planning and organization.
To arrive at their findings, the researchers looked at data from more than 4,000 people in the 1970 British Cohort Study, which tracked the health of people born in England, Scotland and Wales from birth in 1970 to adulthood.
Participants in their mid-40s were asked to wear activity trackers and take cognitive tests.
Those who “spent even short periods of time doing more intense activity — just 6 to 9 minutes — compared to sitting, sleeping, or gentle activity had higher cognition scores,” according to the study’s lead author John Mitchell’s email comments to CNN , PhD student at the Department of Sport, Physical Activity and Health, University College London.
The study authors add that replacing moderate-intensity and vigorous physical activity with just eight minutes of sedentary activity caused participants “theoretically to decrease their cognition ranking by 1-2% within the study sample.”
Further decreases in moderate- and vigorous-intensity physical activity caused even greater cognitive declines.
So, what types of activities should you engage in to give your brain a kick? According to CNN:
“Moderate physical activity is usually defined as brisk walking or cycling or climbing stairs. Vigorous exercise, like aerobic dancing, jogging, running, swimming, and biking up a hill, will get your heart rate and breathing going.”
The researchers note that the results are based on an observational study and therefore cannot establish a direct causal link between intense activity and improved brain performance.
As Mitchell tells CNN:
“Since we don’t monitor participants’ cognition over many years, this may simply be because people who move more tend to have higher cognition on average. But yes, it could also mean that even minimal changes in our daily lives can have downstream consequences for our cognition.”
For more information on the benefits of exercise, see: