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Just Six Minutes of Activity Can Boost Cognitive Performance

Exercise is known to be beneficial for improving cognitive function and overall brain health, yet a new study has found that even just six minutes of light activity or sedentary behavior every day can reduce cognitive performance. Published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health, the study found that replacing moderate to vigorous physical activity (MVPA) with either light-intensity activity or no exercise at all triggered poorer cognitive performance.[0]

The study was conducted by John Mitchell, MRC doctoral student, UCL Institute of Epidemiology and Health Care, and his colleagues who used data from the 1970 British Cohort Study, a prospective birth cohort study of U.K.-born adults.[1] In total, 4,481 participants, whose average age was 47, had their data evaluated.[2]

Results indicated that those who did well on mental tasks devoted more time to moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) and less time to sleeping and sedentary activities.

Mitchell and his team found that people who spent even small amounts of time in more vigorous activities—as little as 6 to 9 minutes—compared to sitting, sleeping or gentle activities had higher cognition scores.

Their findings also revealed that, while the relationship between exercise and cognition remained after adjusting for sociodemographic factors, it reduced after accounting for health and lifestyle factors.

“Given we don’t monitor participants’ cognition over many years, this may be simply that those individuals who move more tend to have higher cognition on average,” Mitchell observed.[3] It could be argued that even minor alterations to our everyday routines could lead to consequential impacts on our mental processes.[3]

He also added that “if exercise can significantly increase the mental performance of professional mind gamers, imagine what it could do for the rest of us. From increasing focus when revising for an exam or improving alertness before a work presentation, exercise truly can enhance brain power.”[4]

It is suggested by the Department of Health and Human Services that adults partake in at least 150 minutes of moderate to intense physical activity per week and two days of muscle-strengthening exercises.[5] This can be done gradually, the CDC says in its Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.[6]

Overall, the findings suggest that replacing sedentary time with higher-intensity physical activity could improve brain health and enhance cognitive performance.

0. “A daily six-minute activity could help ‘boost’ your brain power – ‘Critical’ intervention” Express, 24 Jan. 2023,

1. “Skipping exercise in favor of sitting can worsen brain function, study finds” NBC News, 23 Jan. 2023,

2. “Dementia: Adding 7-9 minutes of exercise per day may boost cognition” Medical News Today, 29 Jan. 2023,

3. “This Type of Exercise May Boost Brain Power (in Under 10 Minutes)” Money Talks News, 25 Jan. 2023,

4. “Struggling to concentrate? Just 21 minutes of exercise will help” Metro, 24 Jan. 2023,

5. “Just 6 extra minutes of physical activity found to boost brain power in middle age” Daily Mail, 23 Jan. 2023,

6. “Researchers replaced sitting with exercise, then gave memory tests. Here’s what they found.”, 25 Jan. 2023,

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