Editor’s note: Consult a healthcare provider before starting an exercise program.
What if you could look at all the things you do every day — walking from room to room, setting up a presentation at your desk, running up and down stairs to deliver folded laundry, running around the block — and see what’s doing better or hurting your brain?
A new study attempted to answer that question by attaching activity monitors to the thighs of nearly 4,500 people in the UK and tracking their movements 24 hours a day for seven days. The researchers then examined how the participants’ behavior affected their short-term memory, problem-solving, and processing skills.
Here’s the good news: “People who spent shorter periods of time in high-intensity activity — 6 to 9 minutes — compared to sitting, sleeping, or gentle activity — had higher cognitive scores,” says study author John Mitchell, MD, Medical Research Council MD at the Institute. Sport, Exercise and Health at University College London. PhD training student, email.
Moderate physical activity is usually defined as brisk walking, cycling, or walking up and down stairs. Vigorous movement such as aerobic dancing, jogging, running, swimming, and mountain biking will increase your heart rate and breathing.
The study, published Monday in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, moderate to vigorous exercise for less than 10 minutes each day improved study participants’ working memory, but had the greatest impact on executive processes such as planning and organizing.
The cognitive improvement was modest, Mitchell said, but the benefits increased with more time spent doing high-intensity exercise.
“Because we did not track participants’ cognition over several years, people who moved more had higher cognition on average,” he said. “However, yes, this could also mean that even small changes in our daily lives can have downstream effects on our cognition.”
Stephen Malin, an associate professor in the Department of Kinesiology and Health at Rutgers University in New Jersey, told CNN the study provides new insight into how activity interacts with sedentary behavior and sleep.--
“Understanding the interactions between sleep and various physical activities is often poorly understood,” said Mallen, who was not involved in the new study.-
Despite some limitations, including a lack of knowledge about the study participants’ health, the results demonstrate how “the accumulation of movement patterns over a period of one day to one week to one month is as important, if not more important, than getting out of a single session of exercise.” the exercise “.
There was bad news, too: Too much sleep, sitting still, or moderate exercise can have a negative impact on the brain. The study found that after replacing an equal portion of moderate to vigorous physical activity with eight minutes of sedentary behavior, six minutes of light intensity, or seven minutes of sleep, cognition decreased by 1% to 2%.
“We showed that in most cases less than 7 to 10 minutes of MVPA (moderate to vigorous physical activity) is harmful,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell emphasized that this change is just an association, not a cause and effect, because of the study’s observational methods.
In addition, sleep study results can’t be taken at face value, he said. Good sleep is important for the brain to function at maximum performance.
“The evidence for the importance of sleep for cognitive performance is strong,” Mitchell said, “but there are two major caveats: First, excessive sleep may be associated with impaired cognitive functioning.
“Secondly, sleep quality may be more important than duration. Our accelerometers can estimate how long people slept, but they can’t tell us how well they slept.
More studies are required to validate these findings and understand the role of each type of activity. Still, Mitchell said, “it does highlight how very modest differences in people’s daily movement — less than 10 minutes — are associated with real changes in our cognitive health.”