New Study Explains the Real Reason Why Smart People Have Less Desire for Physical Activity


By saying smart, we mean people who like to use their brain more than others.

This has nothing to do with the level of IQ because even some of the individuals with a low IQ can have a huge passion for solving intellectual tasks.

The study which was conducted recently and published in the Journal of Health Psychology is showing some interesting results. People who use their brain more and actually enjoy taking mentally difficult tasks tend to have less physical activity during the day. This could be connected with our evolution. The more we developed our brain and cognitive abilities, the less we started moving.

Most of the jobs which are attractive to the people who have the tendency to use their brain more often include long office sitting hours. This, however, does not mean that such jobs will not attract people who do not have a high need for cognition.

Psychological Studies

A need for cognition is actually used as a metric system in this study and it is widely used in psychological studies as NFC abbreviation. The method which was used in this research included a survey of 18 questions which was basically asking if a person likes to have the responsibility of doing the tasks that require a lot of thinking or if the person prefers the tasks that require very little thinking. An interesting question which helped a lot to determine in which group does a tested individual belongs was a question:

Do they find a task which includes a lot of thinking entertaining?

60 students were included in the study and were divided into groups of “thinkers” with high NFC and “movers” with a low NFC. The students were wearing a device called actigraphy device for a week. It was measuring their daily physical activity, movements, muscle movements and activities such as moving the limbs, plain walking, dancing, exercising, etc. The students who showed less physical activity were the ones that showed a high NFC in the survey while the students with low NFC showed much more physical activity.

Because the study was included undergraduate university students, this is not indicating any connection with the chosen profession or kind of job that they are performing. The results were not based on their cognitive preferences. The researchers indicated that it is possible that the difference in physical activity between undergrad high-NFC individuals, and low-NFC individuals of the same age who are not attending college is even greater.

It is very important to note that a need for cognition is totally different category than simple intelligence.

There are many high IQ people who simply dislike using their brain in their daily tasks and prefer a simple and repeating routine. This means that these high IQ people have a very low NFC.

A question from the survey which was asking if the individual enjoys or finds a cognitive challenge as a fun task is giving us the best explanation about the difference between IQ and NFC. Smart people (with high NFC) are entertaining themselves mentally, while the low-NFC people develop a sense of boredom when they are faced with a task which includes a lot of thinking.

As in everything in life, both of these two human features, low-NFC or high-NFC, are not too good for our health if they are extremely present. Physical activity is recommended and necessary to maintain our health, while dislike of cognitive activities can affect our mental health, job satisfaction, and overall life success.

So, if you think that you are in the smart people category, start to exercising to balance your overall health!