JAMA Psychiatry on cognitive problems associated with heavy TV viewing and low level of physical activity

The JAMA Psychiatry January, 2016, issue includes, “Effect of Early Adult Patterns of Physical Activity and Television Viewing on Midlife Cognitive Function.”  Many studies have found short term risks for excessive TV viewing and other sedentary lifestyle factors, but this study investigated “the association between 25-year patterns of television viewing and physical activity and midlife cognition.”  The study found that the combination of more than 3 hours of TV viewing and low physical activity in early adulthood was linked with “worse midlife executive function and processing as assessed by three cognitive tests.

Among the results:

  • Compared with participants who watched less TV, those who watched TV heavily were more likely to have poor cognitive performance on 2 of 3 cognitive tests;
  • Low physical activity was significantly associated with poor cognitive performance on 1 of the cognitive tests;
  • Finally, compared to those with light TV watching habits and high physical activity, the odds of poor performance were almost two times higher for adults who watched TV heavily and had low levels of physical activity.

This study provides support for behavioral professions routinely asking patients/clients about their TV viewing habits and activity level, and offering to counseling about potential implications for unhealthy habits. 

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