Jobs that require a lot of physical exertion can not only wear down the brain, they seem to have a negative effect on the workers’ brain. Researchers at Colorado State University conducted a recent study of 99 adults who were between the ages of 60 and 79. Those who had physically stressful jobs over the course of their lives tended to do poorer on the memory tests. AMRI scan showed that the hippocampus was also less active in those who did hard physical labor. The hippocampus plays a large role in storing short-term memories and managing the memories that move into the long-term stored memories. With lower activity levels, the hippocampus may start to deteriorate, which increases the risk of dementia.
Since the average American works more than 8 hours a day for more than 40 years, physical laborers spend less time in leisurely pursuits that can help to stimulate the brain in a way that is more effective in terms of building memories. The study also showed that these jobs are not the same as exercising. Although the laborers are more active than those with desk jobs, that means they are less likely to exercise at home. Exercise has proven to have mental benefits that are lacking in physically stressful jobs. While exercise can help improve cognitive abilities, physically demanding jobs do not. Putting more of a focus on protecting these workers from later cognitive decline can reduce the cost of their care when they are older. Tending to a person who is suffering from dementia or other forms of mental impairment is more costly than caring for those who are mentally more aware.
For a more in-depth look at the study, check out Physically Demanding Jobs Linked to Memory Problems, Dementia Later in Life.