Too Much TV When Young May Hamper Middle-Age Brain

Too Much TV When Young May Hamper Middle-Age Brain Low levels of physical activity also tied to decreased mental function later in life, study finds
WebMD News from HealthDay

By Alan Mozes

HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Dec. 2, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Young adults who watch tons of TV, and spend more time on the couch than at the gym, may end up paying for it with diminished mental performance in middle-age, new research suggests.

"We found that low physical activity and high TV watching in young adulthood were associated with worse cognitive [mental] function" in middle-age, said Tina Hoang, a staff research associate with the Northern California Institute for Research and Education at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in San Francisco.

And that finding was "particularly surprising," added Hoang, given that the current study pointed to a negative impact on mental function in people who were mostly in their 50s. Seniors have been the focus of most prior investigations, she explained.

But, "this is really a preliminary study," she cautioned. Hoang also acknowledged that while TV time and physical inactivity seem to be associated with diminished mental ability, the study couldn't show whether or not such lifestyle factors actually cause mental decline. "More work is needed to really understand this relationship," she added.

The study findings were published in the Dec. 2 online edition of JAMA Psychiatry.

To gauge the long-range mental health impact of TV and physical activity habits, investigators enlisted more than 3,200 men and women. Study participants were an average of about 25 years old when the study began. Most (55 percent) were white and 57 percent were female. More than 90 percent of the study volunteers finished high school, the researchers said.

Over the 25-year study, all of the participants completed at least three detailed lifestyle questionnaires.

The study authors defined high TV-viewers as people who watched more than three hours of TV per day during the prior year (on at least two-thirds of the questionnaires they filled out).

The researchers calculated physical activity by exercise units. These units were measured using a combination of duration of exercise with intensity of exercise. Those who scored low on physical activity were below the baseline number of exercise units for their sex, the study said.

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