Skipping exercise in favor of sitting can worsen brain function, study finds

Skipping out on exercise in favor of less demanding activities — such as sitting or lying down — was linked to a slight decline in memory and thinking abilities, according to a

study published Monday in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health. The differences, though small, show how even minor changes in physical activity levels can affect

a person's health, including brain health, said lead study author John Mitchell, a researcher at the Institute of Sport, Exercise and Health in the United Kingdom. Mitchell

and his colleagues used data from the 1970 British Cohort Study — an ongoing study that tracks the health of a group of people born in the U.K. in 1970. The study’s findings were

based on data from nearly 4,500 people who were followed up with from 2016 to 2018. The participants provided information on their health, background and lifestyle. They

were also asked to wear an activity tracker for at least 10 consecutive hours a day for up to seven days, even when sleeping and bathing. During the study, participants

underwent a series of tests that assessed their ability to process and recall information. Participants, on average, each day did 51 minutes of moderate or intense

exercise; around six hours of light activity, such as a slow walk; and around nine hours of sedentary behavior, such as sitting or lying down. They also got, on average, around

eight hours of sleep.