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What six minutes of exercise can do

"Efforts should be made to bolster this component of daily movement.”

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By Alice Clifford via SWNS

Just six minutes of intense daily exercise is enough to boost brain power in middle age, a new study revealed.

Both moderate and vigorous physical activity (MVPA) is vital in helping stave off deteriorating brain conditions, scientists said.

This level of intensity can improve memory and mental processes such as planning and organization, researchers said.

It is so valuable that replacing it with just six to seven minutes of light-intensity activity or inactivity each day could lead to poorer cognitive performance, experts claimed.

Professor John Mitchell, a professor of primary care and population health at University College London, and the author of the study said: “MVPA is typically the smallest proportion of the day in real terms, and the most difficult intensity to acquire.

“Perhaps partly for this reason, loss of any MVPA time whatsoever appeared detrimental, even within this relatively active cohort.”

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Researchers studied participants from the 1970 British Cohort Study to make the discovery.

The data is made up of people born across England, Scotland, and Wales in 1970 whose health was tracked throughout childhood and into adulthood.

Between 2016 and 2018, 8581 people had reached the ages of 46 to 47, and the research team studied 4,481 of these participants.

Just over half were women, two-thirds were married and 43 percent were educated up to the age of 18.

Out of the cohort, 68 percent were occasional or non-risky drinkers and half had never smoked.

Each participant filled in detailed health, background and lifestyle questionnaires.

They also wore activity trackers for at least ten consecutive hours per day for up to seven days.

During this time, they took various cognitive tests for verbal memory, including immediate and delayed tasks where they would have to recall certain words.

They were also tested on their executive function, which is their ability to plan, focus, multitask and remember instructions.

Scores for each test were added together to produce an overall global score for memory and executive function.

The activity tracker showed that the participants clocked up an average of 51 minutes of MVPA each day.

It also showed that they took part in five hours 42 minutes of light intensity physical activity, nine hours 16 minutes of stationary behavior and eight hours 11 minutes of sleep over a 24-hour period.


Those who performed well in cognitive tasks spent more time doing MVPA and less time sleeping and doing stationary activities.

To better understand this link, the researchers reallocated time from one component to another, minute by minute, to estimate what impact this might have on global cognitive performance scores.

By replacing gentle activities with MVPA there was a 1.27 percent improvement in cognitive function.

There was also a 1.31 percent improvement in cognition ranking when as little as nine minutes of inactive activity was replaced with vigorous activity.

What is more, there was a 1.2 percent improvement when they replaced seven minutes of sleep with seven minutes of MVPA.

On the flip side, by replacing eight minutes of vigorous activity with inactive behavior, cognition rankings dropped by around one to two percent.

Similarly, replacing vigorous activities with six minutes of light-intensity physical activity or seven minutes of sleep, caused similar falls of one to two percent in cognition.

These results thus show that the less MVPA in someone’s daily routine, the worse their cognitive abilities.

The researchers cannot establish a cause for these results as it is an observational study, the authors said.

And despite a large sample size, people of color were underrepresented, limiting the findings, researchers added.

The trackers also were not able to provide context for each movement.

Dr. Mitchell added: "This robust method corroborates a critical role for MVPA in supporting cognition, and efforts should be made to bolster this component of daily movement.”

This study was published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health.

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