We’ve ALL been there. Probably more often than we’d like to admit.
At the end of a long day, often all you want to do is pick up the remote and collapse on your couch. But if you find yourself tuning in TOO often, you could be doing significant damage and not even know it.
I’m not talking about the fact that none of us should sit as much as we do. (We shouldn’t.) Or even the fact that TV watching tends to lead to TV snacking. (It does.)
No, it’s a whole new problem I’m talking about. And it’s one we’re just NOW beginning to understand.
A new study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, has linked too much time watching TV with cognitive decline and trouble word finding.
Too much TV time DOUBLES cognitive decline
Using data from the English Longitudinal Study of Aging, UK researchers monitored more than 3600 adults over the age of 50 for six years.
At the beginning of the study, volunteers were given memory and recall tests. At the end of six years, they were given the same tests again.
Folks who watched more than 3.5 hours of TV a day showed significant cognitive decline, compared to those volunteers who tuned into the boob tube less often.
Study participants who watched less than 3.5 hours of television a day experienced a four to five percent decline. While those that clocked in at two and a half episodes of their favorite hour-long show doubled that number to a 10 percent drop.
The more TV they watched, the BIGGER the decline.
And the connection was there even AFTER researchers adjusted the data for normal age-related decline, overall health status, and how sedentary folks were.
Lots of tube time gives you a “bored” brain
The link is clear. The more time spent in front of the tube the faster your cognitive decline.
But scientists are still trying to figure out WHY it happens.
There are two main theories…
1. Mental stress:
I know time spent parked in front of the TV SEEMS relaxing. But experts believe that a lot of tube time could lead to a kind of stress-induced memory loss.
According to researchers in England, extensive TV watching is linked to physical changes in areas of the brain responsible for both learning and memory. These changes may trigger a sort of “mental stress” that causes you to have trouble with word finding.
2. Bored brain:
There are a limited number of hours in the day. And when you’re spending so many of them planted in front of your TV screen, it means you AREN’T spending them doing things that help support and protect your memory and cognitive function. In other words, the lack of mental stimulation is essentially boring your brain into cognitive decline.
But regardless of the cause, we can ALL agree losing your memory is a hefty price to pay for squeezing in some extra mind-numbing entertainment.
Stimulate your brain for a better memory
Don’t worry. No one is suggesting you have to toss your television in the trash.
The key is to make sure the boob tube isn’t your ONLY source of entertainment. Mix it up with other activities that encourage your brain to stay active, and help YOU to stay sharp.
Need some inspiration? Try one of these…
- listening to or playing music
- doing puzzles, such as crosswords or Sudoku
- playing games, such as cards, board games, and even video games
- go for a walk
There’s even a theory that what you watch may help slow down TV-linked cognitive decline. And it’s certainly worth a try. So go ahead and slip some documentaries and other educational types of programs into your TV line-up.
Some age-related cognitive decline is inevitable. But there’s no reason to click fast-forward on the memory-loss button. Put down the remote and pick up a brain-boosting activity more often instead.