Watching TV is Bad for Brain Health

Three studies have recently been concluded, each of which looks at the effect of television watching habits on brain health, specifically gradual reductions in the amount of gray matter found in the aging brain.  All three studies found that those who watched less television on average had less loss of brain volume in tests conducted after a period of several years of monitoring.

Notably, the amount of exercise participants engaged in was not correlated with gray matter loss.  That is, those who watched more TV and also were less sedentary at other times still had the greater brain decline compared with those who watched less TV.  More or less exercise did not seem to have any effect on the correlation of brain volume reduction with television watching.

MoodSurfing has been following developments in research around “screen time” or overall use of electronic devices on mental and physical health, but there has not been much research until now that looks at the use of different types of devices.  More active device interaction, such as video gaming, or work-at-home may not result in similar neurological declines. 

Yet another recent study on brain volume and brain health in aging came up with what I can only call bad news: increased levels of gray matter and better brain health is found in elderly people who do more… housework!  Ugh.  However, the findings are robust and offer some interesting insights into the brain health debate.  Housework chores such as “tidying, dusting, meal preparation and clean up, shopping, heavy housework, yard work, home repairs and caregiving” were associated with greater brain volume regardless of time spent exercising.  Researchers speculate that, in addition to getting people up out of their chairs, housework requires planning and organization, which may result in the formation of new neural connections, even in the elderly.

So, while more research is clearly needed into how we can maintain healthy brains a few findings can be considered takeaways from these studies:  get regular exercise, including at least a brief walk and stretch for each hour of sedentary activity.  Take care of your home environment and pay attention to your immediate surroundings.  And turn off the Tube!