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Cognitive Skills Ward Off Physical Inactivity, says the new Study 

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), a lack of physical activity makes a person loses his life every ten seconds and over 3.2 million individuals die per year. A regular decrease in cognitive skills, as well as physical activity, have been observed from the age of fifty since both of them are correlated. But which factor affects the other was unknown.

Do cognitive skills impact physical activity or physical activity impact on the brain? To answer all these queries, the database of over a hundred thousand individuals aged fifty to ninety was used by the NCCR Lives Swiss National Centre of Competence in  Research and the University of Geneva (UNIGE), Switzerland.

Every 2 years for twelve years cognitive capabilities and physical activity of the participants were calculated. opposite to the previous thoughts, this study found that physical activity ward off the decrease in cognitive skills much less than the cognitive skills prevents physical inactivity.

The detailed findings of the study are published in the journal Health Psychology and is open for public access.

For many years researchers have been searching for the influence of physical activity on cognitive abilities. Hence Boris Cheval, a researcher at UNIGE’s Swiss Centre for Affective Sciences (CISA) revealed that correlations between physical activity and cognitive skills have been found especially regarding memory as well as growth and survival of new neurons.

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But it is not officially tested whether cognitive abilities prevent physical inactivity or physical activity fight against cognitive abilities and researchers aimed at verifying it.

Based on the correlation between cognitive capabilities and physical activity previous studies suggested that physical activity fights against the decrease of cognitive abilities. But the validity of past studies is not confirmed. Researchers from the University of Geneva (UNIGE) continued that the new studies showed that the brain has an impact on physical activity.

Geneva researchers used information from SHARE; Survey of Health, Aging, and Retirement in Europe. SHARE covers a database of microdata on socioeconomic status, health and family networks of about twenty-five countries. Every 2 years for twelve years Matthieu Boisgontier a researcher at the Lives Swiss National Centre of Competence in Research (NCCR Lives) tested the status of physical activity and cognitive skills of about 105206 individuals with age ranging from fifty to ninety years.

The total physical activity was calculated on a scale of one to four (here one means ‘never’ and four means ‘more than once a week’) while cognitive skills were calculated by naming as many animals as possible per minute ( verbal fluency test) and learning ten words and narrating them later (memory test).

The above data was placed in 3 separate models by the researchers. In the 1sr model, they ultimately focused on whether physical activity pf individuals foretell any change in cognitive abilities or not; in the 2nd whether cognitive abilities foretell any change in physical activity or not and in the 3rd, researchers examined the 2 options bidirectionally.

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Cheval revealed that the 2nd statistical model precisely fits the information of the individuals and showed that cognitive abilities have an impact on physical activity while physical activity has no such influence on cognitive capacities. In addition, Boisgontier pointed out that it’s a virtuous circle and physical activity has an impact on cognitive capabilities but according to the finding of this study physical activity has an influence to a smaller extent.

Cognitive abilities and physical activity start declining inevitably from the age of fifty. The findings of this study are the opposite of the previous thoughts and researchers showed that if individuals work on their cognitive capabilities, they can eventually slow the decrease of this virtuous cycle. The study concludes that physical activity can be improved by working on cognitive skills.


Areeba Hussain

The author is a fulltime medical and healthcare writer. She graduated in Medical Microbiology and Immunology with distinction. Her areas of prime interest are medicine, medical technology, disease awareness, and research analysis. Twitter @Areeba94789300

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