A new study by researchers at the Univ. of Pittsburgh has found that people who are consistently active throughout the day tend to be happier and their performance on cognitive tests are better than those who have an irregular activity pattern. The findings suggest that patterns of activity, not just the intensity of the activity, are critical for healthy mental health and aging.
This suggests that it’s important to maintain a consistent routine each day, with regular periods of activity and rest. The exciting thing about these findings is that health and wellness could be improved by voluntary and intentional activity patterns.
For the study, 1,800 older adults over 65 were recruited to identify if there were any links associated with their activity pattern and their cognition and mental health. They all wore accelerometers for 7 days which measured their activity. They also answered questionnaires to determine any symptoms of depression and to access their cognitive function. It was shown that 37.6% of the participants were early risers, kept consistent routines and remained active all day.
Whereas, another group of the participants (32.6%) also had daily routines but were only active for about 13.4 hours everyday. This was because they woke up later in the morning and retired earlier during the evening. They tended to have more symptoms of depression and their cognition was poorer.
The rest of the participants (29.8%) had disrupted activity patterns, exhibited erratic behavior throughout the day and their activity levels were inconsistent from day to day. These adults were more likely to experience depression and perform worse on cognitive tests.
Research suggests that the duration of activity, rather than intensity, may be more important for health. The relationship between mental health and activity patterns is bidirectional. Depression or cognitive impairment can make it more difficult to have a consistent routine, and conversely having a disrupted activity rhythm could make these symptoms worse. However, simply staying engaged with activities throughout the day can be beneficial for mental health.
People who want to get better sleep should develop a consistent routine. This includes waking up at the same time each day, no matter how tired you are. It’s also important to have a realistic plan to keep active throughout the day by incorporating activities you enjoy. If you are finding it difficult to get back into an exercise routine, it is important to be patient and reasonable with yourself. One way to make the process easier is to compile a list of activities that you enjoy and can do safely. Some examples might be swimming, biking, or taking a nature walk. By choosing something that you enjoy, you are more likely to stick with it in the long run.
Our internal clock can help us create a stable routine by setting time cues for things like sunlight, exercise, and eating. A healthy lifestyle is essential for everyone, and that includes getting enough sleep and exercise, as well as having a meaningful day filled with activities that you enjoy. It’s important to have something to look forward to each morning and to feel productive and satisfied by the end of the day. Whether it’s spending time with family and friends, working on a hobby, or volunteering in the community, finding purpose in your daily routine is key to living a happy and healthy life.
To view the original scientific study click below:
Association of 24-Hour Activity Pattern Phenotypes With Depression Symptoms and Cognitive Performance in Aging