There is a prejudice that sedentary lifestyle has a bad effect on brain health and that physical activity can help strengthen it. However, researchers at the University of Cambridge have found that people whose work requires less physical activity do not necessarily develop problems in brain function with age. Working at a desk, on the contrary, they believe, can protect against cognitive decline in the future. An article about this was published in the International Journal of Epidemiology.
It is accepted that "good for the heart, good for the brain". This is confirmed by studies: lack of physical activity is a known risk factor for brain health, as in sedentary people are more likely to have problems with memory and attention. However, according to experts from the UK, the evidence that physical activity directly protects against cognitive decline is often mixed and unconvincing.
In a new study, scientists have analyzed information collected from 8,500 volunteers, men and women, aged 40-79 years. They all lived in different socio-economic conditions and had different levels of education. Specialists studied which associations were physically active during working and non-working hours with a cognitive function in later life.
The participants completed a questionnaire concerning their health and lifestyle, answered questions about the level of physical activity both at work and in their spare time, and then underwent a medical examination. After 12 years of observation, they were invited to conduct tests measuring cognitive functions: memory, attention, visual processing speed, reading skills (IQ index).
The results showed that people who are less active, working in the office have a lower risk of reduced cognitive function in the future. But those who are often engaged in physical labor, this risk is three times higher regardless of education level.
"Office work generally requires more mental work than physical activity," says Shabina Hayat, author of the study. - Therefore, it provides protection against cognitive decline".
Thus, the link between exercise and brain function is not necessarily direct. While regular physical activity is a good prevention of many diseases, the authors conclude, it cannot protect against cognitive impairment in the future.
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