The pandemic has made the world tune in to their favorite programs more so than usual. However, researchers say that your TV binging habits, movie marathons, and non-stop reality show viewing could have detrimental effects on your cognitive health.
Experts have said time and time again that sedentary behavior is related to health complications such as compromised bone health, heart diseases, poor quality of sleep, stroke, diabetes, cancer, and early death. Recent research shows that middle-aged adults that reported high levels of TV binging had a greater cognitive decline.
The Link Between Cognitive Decline and Binging Habits
Very Well Mind reports that 3 studies presented at the American Heart Association's Conferences discussing the adverse health effects of increased TV viewing on the brain of middle-aged to older adults.
One of the studies focused on the cognitive decline and increased risks of dementia in relation to how much time is spent in leisurely TV watching. Participants of the study self-reported their TV habits in two assessments between 1987-1995. Afterwards, volunteers underwent cognitive tests in executive function, working memory, language, and processing speed in two assessments in 1996 and 2013.
Scientists found that those who reported moderate to high levels of TV time experienced roughly a 7% increase in cognitive function decline over a 15 year period compared to those that reported lower levels of TV-watching.
A second study published in AHA Journals, entitled "Abstract MP24: Sedentary Behavior (SB) In Mid-life And Structural Brain Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) Markers Of Cerebrovascular Disease And Neurodegeneration In Late-life: The Atherosclerosis Risk In Communities Neurocognitive Study (ARIC-NCS)" placed participants under MRI scans.
Results showed that those that reported increased TV-watching times had lower volumes of gray matter, the brain tissue associated with muscle control, seeing, hearing, decision making, and important functions, in a 10-year-period. This indicates that prolonged TV-viewing habits increased brain deterioration.
How TV Affects Your Brain
Spending hours watching TV doesn't take much brainpower, which is why it's a popular activity for many. However, experts warn that cognitively passive activities aren't healthy for the brain.
Jill Bolte Taylor, a neuroanatomist, explains that as soon as you turn on the TV, you're getting fixed visual patterning. Routinely done and the cells begging to adapt to the little stimulation leaving the brain to function even less. Taylor's book: Whole-Brain Living: The Anatomy of Choice and the Four Characters That Drive Our Life notes that a person's brain is designed to take new challenges and learn. Without this form of stimulation, the brain cells begin to think that they aren't as needed. Similar to your muscles, brain cells require routine exercise; decreased use of brain cells over a prolonged period leads to brain deterioration and cognitive decline.
Experts say that cognitive health is just as important as other parts of the body. Taylor explains that if proper brain function is what you seek, then it should be practiced, exercised, and challenged on a regular basis. Limiting TV binging habits will not only decrease risks of early cognitive decline but will also give you more time to be productive within the day.
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