Doing This In Your Free Time Can Increase Dementia Risk: 5 Better Alternatives
Are you a die-hard Bravoholic? On your 12th rewatch of The Office in its entirety? Ever been confronted with your TV streamer's judgmental "Are you still watching?" notice? It's no secret that we're living in the golden age of television, and it's easier to get hooked on the best of old and new than ever.
But science may have found a reason to consider pumping the brakes on your TV consumption—even if means trading it in for another form of screentime.
The link between TV and computer time and dementia rates
For a study recently published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, researchers set out to explore the relationship between sedentary activities and dementia. Namely, they looked at both TV watching and computer use and their correlation to the onset of all-cause dementia.
The bad news? Increased TV watching was related to increased rates of dementia. But interestingly enough, increased computer use was actually observed to decrease dementia rates. This relationship was observed regardless of physical activity level.
It's important to note that this research was done on UK biobank participants, with the authors pointing out the group studied lacked diversity in terms of race and ethnicity. They also note that the study relied on self-reported behaviors, which can always lead to imperfect data.
There is no evidence to suggest watching TV in moderation is related to dementia risk. But while the study found compelling data on the overall trends of TV watchers, it does not propose a magic number of TV episodes that should be safe for cognitive health.
How to keep your screen time in check
If watching TV is something you enjoy, there is no need to give it up cold turkey. But when it comes to TV time, this study suggests that moderation is key for healthy aging. Opt for a handful of shows you really enjoy, and consider swapping out hours of mindless watching for something more mentally stimulating. Here are a few habits to help you maximize leisure time in support of brain health:
Go on a walk and put on a podcast or audiobook The kids are calling them "hot girl walks," but this healthy leisure habit certainly does not discriminate along gender lines. Exercise is undeniably great for your health, and it helps protect the brain against cognitive decline. Educational podcasts can also get your mental wheels turning as you move. (Pssstt...if you need a good rec, the mindbodygreen podcast is full of health nuggets.)
Pick up a page-turner: A long-standing leisure pastime, reading is a wonderful way to get lost in a story, learn new things, and flex your imagination. Plus, it's got tons of proven health benefits, including improving our memory and brain health as we age.
Meditate: If you haven't picked up a meditation practice yet, this might be your sign. Even a short daily practice can work wonders for your brain and overall mental health. Here are 10 easy steps to get started.
Early findings suggest that watching tons of TV could increase our risk for dementia, even though using the computer might actually have the opposite effect. Take this as a sign to consider screen time carefully and incorporate more brain-healthy activities into your leisure routine.
Jenny is a San Francisco-based mbg health contributor, content designer, and climate & sustainability communications specialist. She is a graduate of the University of California Santa Barbara. An avid open-water swimmer, Jenny has worked for healthy living and nutrition brands like Sun Basket, Gather Around Nutrition, and Territory Foods.