Working in offices is good for the mind, new research finds

Working in offices is GOOD for the mind: New research finds desk jobs keep people mentally sharp while manual work increases risk of memory problems

  • A University of Cambridge study looked into the impact of going into an office 
  • Participants who worked in an office space performed better at cognitive tests
  • The study tested mental abilities of 8,500 working adults over a 12-year period

Desk jobs keep people mentally sharp while physical labour increases the risk of memory and concentration problems, a study has found.

A lack of physical activity has long been thought to lead to major health conditions, including problems with cognition.

But a study has found that sitting at a desk all day may actually be beneficial for our brains. 

A study from the University of Cambridge revealed that desk jobs keep people mentally sharp while physical labour increases the risk of memory and concentration problems

Scientists believe this is because office-based work is more mentally challenging and can therefore protect against cognitive decline.

Researchers from the University of Cambridge tested the mental abilities of 8,500 working adults over a 12-year period.

They found that participants who worked in an office and had a desk-based job performed better at cognitive tests regardless of their education.

The study also found that those who worked in an office environment throughout the 12 years were more likely to have cognitive test scores in the top 10 per cent. 

But those in manual work were three times more likely to have poor cognition. 

As part of the study, participants were tested on their memory, attention, visual processing speed and reading-based IQ. They also filled out questionnaires to determine their level of physical activity. 

After an average of 12 years, the volunteers were invited back for the same tests.

The study showed that participants who worked in an office and had a desk-based job performed better at cognitive tests regardless of their education

Shabina Hayat, from the university’s department of public health and primary care, said: ‘The often used mantra “what is good for the heart is good for the brain” makes sense but the evidence on what we need to do as individuals can be confusing.

‘Our analysis shows that the relationship between physical activity and cognitive function is not straightforward. While physical activity has considerable benefits for protection against many chronic diseases, other factors may influence its effect on future poor cognition.

‘People who have less active jobs – typically office-based desk jobs – performed better at cognitive tests regardless of their education.’

She concluded: ‘This suggests that because desk jobs tend to be more mentally challenging than manual occupations, they may offer protection against cognitive decline.’

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