We know that spending all day hunched over laptops is shortening our lifespan and expanding our waistlines. Still, the threat of never growing up to be an Anderson Cooper-caliber silver fox may not be enough to motivate young tech workers to switch to a treadmill desk and sign up for some daily Jazzercise.

But if you value your mind, beware: A new study shows how added pounds can make us dumber.

“The findings show that lower-fit individuals lose more memory across time,” said Kimberly Fenn, assistant professor of psychology at Michigan State University, in a chat with VentureBeat.

The study found that less fit college-age students had a worse long term memories than their fitter counterparts. Even after controlling for race, age, and IQ, participants who had fatter body compositions and less aerobic capacity (Vo2 max), performed worse a test of long-term memory.

Study participants were asked to memorize word pairs until they could reliably remember at least a few groups. Then, after at least 24 hours, they were asked to perform the same memory test.

“These findings contribute to a larger body of research that has begun to indicate that cardiorespiratory fitness may be important for the optimal functioning of multiple aspects of high-level cognitive and memory processes,” concluded the researchers.

In other words, poor fitness impacts at least one critical area of our intelligence and could be related to even more.

Two possible solution

  1. Get a treadmill desk. I love my walking treadmill. I walk around four to nine hours each day, and don’t lose an ounce of productivity. Indeed, at least a few studies have show that people are smarter while walking. Treadmill desks are a tad expensive ($1,000-$1,500), but it’s well worth the cost in increased health and productivity.
  2. Exercise! I discovered that I could replace coffee with 30 seconds of high-intensity exercise. About every two hours, I do a quick bout of burpees, mountain climbers, or shadow boxing, and I feel an immediate surge of mental energy.

In a word, if you value your mind, you have to value your body as well.

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