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Varied and Consistent Daily Activities Improve Brain Health

New research suggests the key to keeping our brain healthy during the aging process is to engage in diverse activities regularly, beginning in young adulthood. Activity diversification was found to be especially important for older adult’s psychological well-being.

University of South Florida (USF) investigators believe maintaining cognitive function throughout adulthood is fostered by participation in diverse activities beginning in the mid-30’s. This is a busy time for most adults as career advancement is often a primary concern, as well as the start of a new family and associated responsibilities.

In the new study, USF researchers focused on seven common daily activities: paid work, time with children, chores, leisure, physical activity, volunteering, and giving informal help. They reviewed two sets of data from 732 people ranging between the ages of 34 and 84 that was collected by the National Survey of Daily Experiences.

Every day for eight consecutive days, each participant was asked if they partook in those activities and scored on an activity diversity score that captures both the breadth (variety) and evenness (consistency) of activity participation. The same group was queried ten years later.

The study, which appears in the Journal of Gerontology: Psychological Sciences, discovered that those who increased activity diversity over the decade exhibited higher levels of cognitive functioning than those who maintained lower or decreased activity diversity.

Investigators assessed cognitive functioning with the Brief Test of Adult Cognition by Telephone (BTACT) battery, which measures multiple dimensions of cognition, including working memory span, verbal fluency, attention, speed of processing, reasoning and verbal memory.

Previous studies have examined how activity variety and frequency impact cognition. This is the first study to prove activity consistency is also essential, regardless of age.

“Results support the adage to ‘use it or lose it’ and may inform future interventions targeting the promotion of active lifestyles to include a wide variety of activities for their participants,” said Soomi Lee, PhD, assistant professor of Behavioral and Community Sciences.

“Findings suggest that active and engaged lifestyles with diverse and regular activities are essential for our cognitive health.”

Researchers explain that daily engagement results in greater accumulation of intellectual and social repertoires. Life experiences, such as educational attainment or leisure activities, can help compensate for progressing Alzheimer’s Disease.

Conversely, a lack of activities or passive behavior, like binge watching TV, is associated with cognitive decline. While participants did keep their minds sharp, Lee says she did not find a correlation between activity diversity and episodic memory, which is known to decline with age.

A previous study by Lee also shows that activity diversity is important for psychological well-being, especially for older adults. The current study shows that activity diversity matters for cognitive health across age groups and an active lifestyle is important for different domains of health.

Source: University of South Florida/EurekAlert

Varied and Consistent Daily Activities Improve Brain Health

Rick Nauert PhD

Rick Nauert, PhDDr. Rick Nauert has over 25 years experience in clinical, administrative and academic healthcare. He is currently an associate professor for Rocky Mountain University of Health Professionals doctoral program in health promotion and wellness. Dr. Nauert began his career as a clinical physical therapist and served as a regional manager for a publicly traded multidisciplinary rehabilitation agency for 12 years. He has masters degrees in health-fitness management and healthcare administration and a doctoral degree from The University of Texas at Austin focused on health care informatics, health administration, health education and health policy. His research efforts included the area of telehealth with a specialty in disease management.

APA Reference
Nauert PhD, R. (2020). Varied and Consistent Daily Activities Improve Brain Health. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 27, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 20 Feb 2020 (Originally: 20 Feb 2020)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 20 Feb 2020
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