M. Jackson Group Update – August 2022 – Dementia Risk and Exercise

A collection of postings on a range of issues is available on our website (www.mjacksongroup.ca).  This month’s post is again from Ken Pope’s listserv, where he kindly provides daily summaries of current articles in the field.

The article is as follows:

The New York Times includes an article: “What Types of Exercise Reduce Dementia Risk?” by Rachel Fairbank.

Here are some excerpts:

Experts had long believed that exercise could help protect against developing dementia. However, though they had observed a general pattern of reduced risk, studies on the subject [showed] little consensus on the type, frequency or intensity of exercise that might be best.

But three major long-term studies released in recent months have attempted to characterize the types, intensities and durations of physical activity that confer the most overall protection against dementia. 

These studies, which followed thousands, and even hundreds of thousands, of people for years at a time, confirm that regular physical activity, in many forms, plays a substantial role in decreasing the risk of developing dementia.

Vigorous exercise seems to be best….

Many forms of exercise can stave off dementia.

In the first study, published July 27 in the journal Neurology, researchers analyzed the health information of 501,376 participants who did not have dementia in a British database called UK Biobank to establish links between physical activity and the risk of developing the disease.

One of the main advantages of this database was that it had “very enriched data about the genetics” of the participants, said Dr. Huan Song, a researcher at West China Hospital, Sichuan University, who was one of the study’s authors. 

This included a risk profile of participants based on whether they had genetic variants known to be associated with dementia, or whether they had immediate family members with the condition.

At the beginning of the study, participants filled out detailed questionnaires about their participation in physical activities, such as playing sports, climbing stairs or walking, and whether they regularly walked or biked to work. They were also asked about various lifestyle factors, including how often they completed household chores.

One of the major constraints of previous studies was that “the definition of physical activity is quite weak,” Dr. Song said. “Some use the total amount, and some just focus on one mode of activity.” The British questionnaires offered specificity on exactly which activities participants were engaging in on a regular basis.

Participants were followed for 11 years, during which time 5,185 developed dementia.

The study found that, in participants who engaged in regular, vigorous activity, such as playing sports or working out, the risk of developing dementia was reduced by 35 percent. 

Surprisingly, people who reported regularly completing household chores also experienced a significant benefit; they had a 21 percent lower risk.

“Some people work up quite a sweat when they are doing household chores,” said Dr. Sandra Weintraub, a neurologist at Northwestern University’s Feinberg School of Medicine, who was not associated with this study. 

For Dr. Salinas, who recommends that people aim for 150 minutes of moderate- to high-intensity exercise a week, the results strengthen the idea that regular moderate to vigorous exercise can promote brain health.

 Cultivating this habit of exercise “is likely to have a very profound synergistic effect,” he said. “You get a lot more bang for your buck in terms of helping to promote your own health through physical activity.”

Perhaps most encouragingly, the association between physical activity and a reduced risk of dementia extended to participants who had a family history of dementia.

“It’s very important to know that if you have a family history of dementia, you can use physical activity to reduce your risk,” Dr. Song said.

Start by doing what you like best.

The second paper, published last week in Neurology, compiled 38 studies to see which leisure activities were associated with a reduced risk of dementia. 

Altogether, the studies followed more than two million participants without dementia over at least three years, during which time 74,700 developed dementia.

After controlling for age, education and gender, the researchers found that participants who exercised regularly — defined as engaging in activities such as walking, running, swimming, dancing, participating in sports or working out at the gym — had a 17 percent lower risk of developing dementia compared with those who did not.

This meta-analysis shows that dementia prevention is not limited to one activity, or even one type of activity. Given the diversity of physical activities that participants engaged in, “we recommend to people to do the exercise that you like,” said Le Shi, a researcher at Peking University and one of the study’s authors.

When it comes to reaping the benefits of physical activity, it’s never too soon to start. 

In a third study published this month, researchers followed more than 1,200 children between 7 and 15 for more than 30 years. Those with higher levels of fitness as children had higher levels of cognitive functioning in midlife, suggesting that establishing a lifelong habit of physical activity could be beneficial for brain health.

Together, these studies suggest the ways we move our bodies on a daily basis could add up over time.

They also solidify the notion that regular, lifelong physical activity, in all of its forms, goes a long way toward reducing the risk of dementia, even for people who are classified as high-risk.

“Your brain is part of your body and is going to benefit from anything you do that is good for your general health,” Dr. Weintraub said.

Ken Pope
Ken Pope, Melba J.T. Vasquez, Nayeli Y. Chavez-Dueñas, & Hector Y. Adames:
Ethics in Psychotherapy & Counseling: A Practical Guide, 6th Edition (Wiley, 2021)

Hector Y. Adames, Nayeli Y. Chavez-Dueñas, Melba J.T. Vasquez, & Ken Pope:Succeeding as a Therapist: How to Create a Thriving Practice in a Changing World (APA, September, 2022)

Ken Pope:
Five Steps to Strengthen Ethics in Organizations and Individuals: Effective Strategies Informed by Research and Histor
y   (Routledge, 2019)

“One of the few things I know…is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time.  Do not hoard what seems good for [later]; give it all, give it now….  Something more will arise for later….  Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you.  You open your safe and find ashes.”—Annie Dillard

M. Jackson Group Update – July 2022 – Body Doubling

A collection of postings on a range of issues is available on our website (www.mjacksongroup.ca).  This month’s post is again from Ken Pope’s listserv, where he kindly provides daily summaries of current articles in the field.
The article is as follows:

The Washington Post includes an article: “‘Body Doubling,’ an ADHD Productivity Tool, Is Flourishing Online” by Kelsey Ables

Here are some excerpts:

[begin excerpts]

One day in April of 2021, Lindsey Bee decided it was time to deal with the laundry “doom piles” that had formed around her house. So she did what many people do when faced with a boring task. She turned to TikTok.

But she wasn’t there to procrastinate. For an hour, Bee, a teacher in her 30s, live-streamed herself sorting the clothes on her account dedicated to ADHD: brainsandspoons. As the live stream went on, viewers jumped in to do their own laundry “with” her.

“Everybody was so encouraging,” said Bee, who learned she has ADHD as an adult. “It made it really feel like a group project, not just me by myself on camera. It definitely made the time go by faster.”

The ADHD community calls the practice “body doubling.”

The phenomenon isn’t entirely new. We often body double without realizing it. You might venture to a coffee shop to work alongside strangers or seek out the energy provided by others the gym. “When you think about it, office spaces, a lot of times, are just body doubling. You’re just mirroring the people around you,” Bee says

In the past couple years, though, working in shared spaces has become less common. The coronavirus pandemic has kept people out of coffee shops, emptied offices of colleagues and filled our private spaces with work. For those with ADHD — who struggle with executive functioning skills such as starting, completing and staying on task — a structureless, solo setting can be particularly challenging. Even people who don’t have ADHD might find their attention fractured in an environment where work and life have merged into one big, digital blur.

Recently, more people have been body doubling online. An ADHD community has flourished on TikTok, popularizing the term and a cottage industry of influencers like Bee, who has 114,000 followers. 

She pops onto TikTok to clean, hosts Discord co-working sessions and even created a short video of herself doing her bedtime routine that her followers can watch for motivation to get ready for bed themselves.

In this way, people with ADHD are finding a feeling of “presence” in their computer screens, a sense of social accountability while alone in a room and a way to focus with the help of devices better-known for their distractions. 

Virtual body doubling can be as formal as booking your calendar with sessions hosted by a company such as Spacetime Monotasking, or as casual as finding a friend with whom to FaceTime while working on an assignment. You can find options on YouTube and most social media platforms by doing a search for #bodydoubling.

René Brooks, a 37-year-old, Gettysburg, Pa.-based blogger known as Black Girl, Lost Keys, started a virtual support group for Black women with ADHD on Monday nights, because that’s when she does laundry. The session isn’t specifically for body doubling, but Brooks has found having other people “around” — even on video chat — makes tedious tasks feel more doable. 

By the end of the three-hour session, “I’ve meal prepped. I’ve done laundry. I’ve cleaned my whole house,” she said.

Sloan Burch, a student with ADHD at Clark University, was struggling with a paper when a friend asked her to body double on Zoom. At the agreed-upon time, Burch, 23, shared what she was working on, and her partner checked in at 30-minute intervals during the session. Burch completed her assignment and has been body doubling ever since.

“Whenever I’m needing to focus a little bit harder, I’ll find myself looking over at the screen and seeing the person there,” she said.

“My brain can mimic what they’re doing as opposed to finding something else around me to be distracted by.”


While there hasn’t been formal research into body doubling, it is similar to practices that mental health professionals recommend.

“The term to me was novel but the concept is not,” said Michael Meinzer, director of the Young Adult and Adolescent ADHD Services Lab at the University of Illinois at Chicago. He likened it to the accountability partnerships that he encourages students with ADHD to form. 

Julie Schweitzer, who leads the Attention, Impulsivity, Regulation/ADHD Program at the University of California at Davis, said it reminds her of Writing Accountability Groups. “It’s just applying it to this population who needs it even more,” she said.

Schweitzer said body doubling could work as what psychologists call a “setting event” that consists of “cues that orient attention.” When she worked with children with ADHD, she often asked where they did their homework. “I used to hear people say, ‘It’s better to do it out in the open, because then I know my mom’s watching me.’ ”

In fact, friendly surveillance is so powerful, some people will pay for it. 
Spacetime Monotasking’s subscribers pay $85 per month for unlimited access to “one hour sprint” and “two hour flow” sessions on Zoom, or $10 per drop-in session. The business grew from L.A.-based co-founder Anna Pugh’s TikTok account.

That irony is not lost on her: “It’s like recruiting for AA in the liquor store,” she said.

Pugh, 34, begins the sessions by asking everyone to state their goals and has found participants using the time not just for ordinary work but to clean their kitchens or go for a run. “During tax season, seeing everybody struggling with pulling their taxes together just kind of normalized it. That was a really powerful experience,” she said. “We might think, ‘There’s something wrong with me for not being able to do this thing on my own.’ But the reality is, sometimes you need another person’s presence.”


Will Canu, a psychology professor who researches attention-deficit disorders at Appalachian State University, doesn’t underestimate the sway of these social forces. “We have a little extra motivation to work when we publicly make a commitment to someone else,” he said. There is an “implicit social reward.”

For Brooks, socializing is part of the point. “It’s like the communal nature that you see when you’re looking at work that’s traditionally done by women, like churning butter, shelling peas in circles, that kind of thing. That is absolutely body doubling,” she said. “We’re not just there for the sake of the activity, we’re also there for the social connections that we make.”

One-sided social connections or “parasocial relationships” can be powerful, too. Many participants body double without even knowing the person on the other side.

Allie K. Campbell, a 32-year-old self-described “productivity junkie,” hosts body-doubling sessions on TikTok that draw thousands of viewers. Based in New Jersey and diagnosed with ADHD as a kid, Campbell uses the Pomodoro technique and curated playlists to help her stay on track while working on projects for her remote marketing job. She also banters with her viewers, who occasionally tell her to get back to work.

She recalled one viewer saying they got more done in 30 minutes in her session than in the entire week before. “They were like, ‘What is this black magic that you’re doing here?’ ”

Rather than witchcraft, Campbell’s videos might just be a natural extension of TikTok, which got its start with people imitating dances. “I have to get my work done,” Campbell said. “I might as well do it in front of a live audience.”

[end excerpts]
Ken Pope
Ken Pope, Melba J.T. Vasquez, Nayeli Y. Chavez-Dueñas, & Hector Y. Adames:
Ethics in Psychotherapy & Counseling: A Practical Guide, 6th Edition (Wiley, 2021)

“I play what we can play, not me.  I never play what I can play.  I’m always playing way over and above what I can play.”—Miles Davis