Be honest: just how much television are you watching? One study has estimated that half of American adults spend two to three hours each day watching television, with some watching as much as eight hours per day.
Is time spent on TV a good thing or a bad thing? Let’s look at some of the data in relation to your risks for cognitive decline and dementia.
Physical activity does more to sharpen the mind than sitting
First, the more time you sit and watch television, the less time you have available for physical activity. Getting sufficient physical activity decreases your risk of cognitive impairment and dementia. Not surprisingly, if you spend a lot of time sitting and doing other sedentary behaviors, your risk of cognitive impairment and dementia will be higher than someone who spends less time sitting.
Is television actually bad for your brain?
OK, so it’s better to exercise than to sit in front of the television. You knew that already, right?
But if you’re getting regular exercise, is watching television still bad for you? The first study suggesting that, yes, television is still bad for your brain was published in 2005. After controlling for year of birth, gender, income, and education, the researchers found that each additional hour of television viewing in middle age increased risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease 1.3 times. Moreover, participating in intellectually stimulating activities and social activities reduced the risk of developing Alzheimer’s.
Although this study had fewer than 500 participants, its findings had never been refuted. But would these results hold up when a larger sample was examined?
Television viewing and cognitive decline
In 2018, the UK Biobank study began to follow approximately 500,000 individuals in the United Kingdom who were 37 to 73 years old when first recruited between 2006 and 2010. The demographic information reported was somewhat sparse: 88% of the sample was described as white and 11% as other; 54% were women.