Doing This Every Day Is Ruining Your Brain, Study Says

New research shows that too much physical labor can hurt your mind.

It makes sense that our jobs can have a huge impact on our mentality and overall well-being—especially in the middle of a pandemic when many are working remote or on the front lines. And for those who are hustling beyond the normal 9 to 5, the long hours and high stress levels can result in burnout, fatigue, and anxiety, among other worrisome side effects. But that's not all: Recent research found that jobs that require physical labor can actually harm your brain, too.

The study, which was published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, reported that physical stress, including demanding activity and work conditions, was linked to poor memory performance and a smaller hippocampus—the region of the brain related to memory, learning, and emotions.

brain scan photos with doctor looking at them

To come to this conclusion, a team of scientists looked at 100 people over the age of 60, who had been in the workforce for about 40 years. They compared their brain scans with their occupational histories and had them answer questionnaires about their lifestyle, exercise habits, and recent job experience.

Surprisingly, many of the people who felt physically exhausted had office jobs, meaning being chained to your desk can be just as mentally draining as hard labor.

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But not all physical stress had the same effect. Regular exercise and leisure activities (like hiking) can improve cognitive health and thinking skills, according to the study. In fact, the individuals who regularly worked out during their down time had better memory recall and greater hippocampal volume than those who did not get up and move often. This just goes to show how important it is to take breaks, stretch, and destress with a solid fitness routine. And for more ideas to strengthen your brain, check out the 13 Ways to Keep Your Mind Sharp.