In a new study, researchers found that overweight people who spent more sedentary time in bouts lasting 20 minutes or more were less able to overcome distractions.
They used accelerometers to track daily activity levels for a week in 89 adults with obesity or overweight and, in a series of tests, measured their ability to multitask and maintain their attention despite distractions.
The finding adds to the evidence linking sedentary behaviors and cognition.
The research was conducted by a team at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
Several studies have examined the link between different types of sedentary behaviors such as TV viewing and cognitive functions in children and adults.
Scientists found that regularly sitting for extended periods is linked to increased mortality and heart disease.
People who do not engage in at least 60 minutes per day of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity and sit for eight hours or more have an increased health risk.
Other studies suggest that bouts of prolonged sitting lasting 20 minutes or more negatively affect levels of blood sugar after a meal.
In the study, the team focused on the associations between objectively measured, prolonged sedentary time and cognition in adults 25-45 years old with obesity or overweight.
They collected baseline information for all participants, tested their cognitive ability and calculated each person’s body mass index and percent body fat.
Participants wore accelerometers on their waists during waking hours for seven days. They also completed cognitive tasks and measures of brain function in a laboratory setting.
A statistical analysis of participants’ sedentariness in relation to their speed and accuracy on a task that measures distractibility found a link between the two.
The team showed was that people who spent more time in prolonged sedentary bouts were more easily distracted.
They say more research is needed to determine how the structure of a person’s sedentary time influences cognition.
One author of the study is kinesiology and community health professor Dominika Pindus.
The study is published in the International Journal of Obesity.
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