When you were a child, you might have heard that television will “melt” your brain. The warnings felt dramatic then, but now that we are largely a sitting species – spending long hours at a desk or in the car or on the couch – new research is finding that watching television is, in fact, not good for your brain.
Researchers in the United Kingdom studied 146,651 subjects over the age of 60, and they found that not all sedentary activities are equal. In other words, what you do while you are sitting matters. If you are engaged in a passive activity like watching television, you have a higher risk of dementia, but if you are mentally active, such as using a computer or reading a book, your risks of dementia are lower.
Staying physically active throughout your day will always be critical, so this study does not discount or change the importance of Habits of Healthy Motion in any way, but it does highlight the importance of exercising your mind as much as you exercise your body. You don’t have to stop watching television altogether, but you should think about keeping your mind in motion in the way that you aim to keep your body in motion – perpetual movements, big and small, throughout your day.
Here are some ideas for keeping your mind active:
- Watch television while you exercise. If you need to catch up on your favorite show, hop on a treadmill or bike or yoga mat and watch while you move.
- Balance the passive with the active. If watching television is part of your relaxation ritual, inject more variety into your routine. Also spend time reading, meditating, or talking with loved ones.
- Try other seated hobbies. Instead of turning on the television, pick up a paintbrush or build a LEGO set or work on your scrapbook.
- Get off the couch! There is nothing wrong with sitting to relax from time to time, but you could also pick up more engaging hobbies. You could volunteer in your community, you could join a club, or you can get outside and enjoy nature.
How will you keep your brain active? What will you do instead of mindlessly binging television? I’d love to hear your plans!