It has been estimated that half of all adults in the United States will develop a serious chronic disease in their lifetime, but what can be done to lower these prevalence rates? Recent research published in the Journal of Behavioral Medicine suggests that the amount of time spent sitting or lying down may negatively impact a person’s health and increase chances of being diagnosed with a serious chronic disease such as cancer, heart disease, or Alzheimer’s disease. A research team investigated this by using accelerometer monitors to track the activity levels of older adults. Participants wore the device on their hip for seven days to log their activity. Sleep patterns and self-regulatory strategies were also reported from the participants. If the accelerometer counts were less than 50 it was considered sedentary activity, 51-1040 was considered light activity, and 1040+ was considered moderate to vigorous activity. The participants also completed tasks using computer programs to evaluate their spatial working memory and task-switching ability.
When sedentary time is replaced with moderate to vigorous activity the participants were more accurate with 2 and 3-item tasks during spatial working memory exercises, had faster reaction times to task-switching assessments, and lead to better self-regulation. Substituting sedentary time with sleep correlated to faster reaction times to some task-switching tests, and improved scores on goal setting, self-monitoring, and social support aspects of self-regulation. This research exemplifies the benefits of sleep and exercise in the elderly and highlights the costs of sedentary activity. Instead of sitting and watching TV, it can be significantly beneficial to exercise for just 30 minutes or even take a nap!
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