According to a new study that looked at cognition levels of adults aged 50–89 with a busy lifestyle, the busier you are the greater your cognition is likely to be. While excessive busyness can create stress—which is known to have negative ramifications such as narrowed attention, impaired working memory, and interference with knowledge acquisition—the authors of this study feel that the benefits of staying busy outweigh the downside.
Via surveys at home and online, and visits to the lab, participants performed a series of tasks and activities that measured key brain functions such as processing speed, working memory, episodic longterm memory, and reasoning. The overall results seemed to suggest that greater busyness is associated with superior cognition.
While the authors of the study do acknowledge that their analyses are correlational, and that they are unable to “determine if living a busy lifestyle improves cognition or if smarter individuals are capable of partaking in more activities, resulting in greater levels of busyness,” they feel that the association is worthy of attention.
These findings support an earlier study led by Ian McDonough (one of the authors of the study above), who is now an assistant professor of Psychology at the University of Alabama. He found that engaging in mentally challenging activities like quilting or photography may be neuroprotective and help the aging mind stay healthy—a superficial confirmation of the “use it or lose it” theory of cognitive aging.
So, as you get older you might want to think twice about what you do with your free time, and ways that you can keep that brain sharp!