Individuals who participate in a variety of activities are likely to have better cognitive abilities than those who do not, according to a recent study. Although the research has limitations, the findings warrant further investigation.
Taking part in a range of activities might protect our cognitive abilities as we age.
Although it is not inevitable, cognitive decline is often associated with advancing age. As adults in the Western world live increasingly long lives, understanding how to preserve and nurture the brain’s function becomes ever more important.
Over the years, studies have shown that both physical and cognitive activity correlate with improved cognitive performance.
Read more: COVID-19: Has it attacked our brains?
On the other side of the coin, research has demonstrated that individuals who spend long periods doing more passive activities, such as watching television, are more likely to experience steeper cognitive decline.
The importance of variety
Rather than just assessing the overall level of activity, the authors of the latest study ask whether variety plays a role in keeping the mind sharp.
The authors explain that “[e]xperiencing and learning from a variety of activities in daily life are posited to increase cognitive reserve capacity and resilience, leading to better performance on cognitively challenging tasks.”
Also, taking part in a range of activities often means that individuals meet more people. The authors explain that social activity, in itself, promotes “one’s social network, knowledge, and psychological and cognitive resources.”
Looking for activities to do with your kids at home to support heart, brain and mental health? Check out Heart Smart Kids resources and take a photo and share your activities. #HSKatHome
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For the current study, the researchers took data from 732 people between the ages of 34 and 84 years. Every day for 8 consecutive days, they asked these individuals whether they had taken part in any of the following seven common activities:
Using this information, the authors gave each participant a score for activity diversity that captured both the variety and consistency of activity.
After 10 years, the scientists asked the same group of individuals the same questions. At the start and end of the study, the researchers assessed each participant’s cognitive function using the Brief Test of Adult Cognition by Telephone battery.
Limitations and the future
The authors note certain limitations of their study. For instance, the participants who completed the study follow-up were, on average, healthier and more educated than the average person in the United States. Also, the participants were predominantly white.
Further research is necessary to determine whether the measured effect is relevant for different demographics.
Importantly, because the study is observational, it is not possible to confirm cause and effect; other variables may have influenced the results. For instance, the authors wonder whether individuals who take part in the widest range of activities might also have the most healthful diet. If this is the case, better nutrition could be helping to boost cognition.
Online Int’l News with additional input by GVS News Desk