Lazy persons of the world, rejoice! You might be brighter than average! A recent study that compared the “need for cognition” and physical activity levels in an individual showed that persons who enjoyed thinking more were less active than those who found thinking to be a burden or dull.

The need for cognition, or NFC, is measured by a simple test that has been in use for decades. Subjects are tested by agreeing or disagreeing with questions such as “I only think as hard as I have to” or “I really enjoy a task that involves coming up with new solutions to problems”. People with a high need for cognition will respond in ways affirming that they enjoy thinking. Those with a low score, not so much. 

The study took 30 people who had a high or low NFC and measured their daily levels of physical activity. The results showed that those with a higher NFC were significantly less active than those with low NFC, though this difference was less pronounced on weekends when all subjects were more active.

The authors of the study, including Todd McElory of Florida Gulf Coast University, point out that persons with a lower need for cognition also have demonstrated a lower tolerance for boredom in previous studies. This suggests that those persons may look to physical activity as a means for stimulation. Persons with higher need for cognition would not require this distraction as they demonstrated an enjoyment of thinking.

The study only concerned 60 persons who were all college students over the course of a single week, and the results might be more applicable to young adults than to adults in general. The authors of the study noted this when discussing the spike in activity by all subjects on the weekends. So more research is certainly needed before all couch potatoes can claim to be philosophers.

Interestingly, this study found that persons with above-average intelligence tend to be thinner than average, however the findings were purely correlative rather than causal. Like everyone, intelligent people come in all shapes and sizes, no matter their laziness, an important thing to remember considering the health risks of a sedentary lifestyle are considerable and difficult to counter.

So there you have it; the findings are murky but the takeaway is not without value: if you have a high need for cognition you might need to spend a little more time moving. Or at least think about it.

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