How are physical activity and fitness related to cognition in the AGHLS cohort?

The AGHLS-team publishes new research in the Journal of Physical Activity and Health:


Physical activity and fitness in adolescence may improve cognition in adulthood by increasing insulin-like growth factor I (IGF-I).


As part of the Amsterdam Growth and Health Longitudinal Study, following subjects from age 13 to 42 years, physical activity and fitness of 303 subjects were assessed annually between the ages 13 to 16. At mean age 36, physical activity, fitness and IGF-I were measured. At mean age 42, IGF-I and cognitive factors, i.e. executive functioning and visual-spatial memory, were measured. The linear regression of physical activity and fitness in adolescence and IGF-I in adulthood on cognitive scores in adulthood was investigated.


A significant association was found in males between physical activity in adolescence and executive function in adulthood (Spatial Working Memory Between Errors: β=-.18, B=-.13, 95% CI=-.259 to -.010; Spatial Working Memory Strategy: β=-.20, B=-.08, 95% CI=-.147 to -.014). No association between physical activity or fitness in adolescence and cognitive function in adulthood was found in females, nor any intermediate role for IGF-I in either sex.


The results suggest a stimulating effect of adolescent physical activity in males on executive functions in adulthood, emphasizing the importance of an active lifestyle amongst adolescent males.

Read the full article here.

Who sits the most?

New AGHLS research, published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports studies person-related determinants of TV viewing and computer time in a cohort of young Dutch adults:

We aimed to assess the associations of person-related factors with leisure time television (TV) viewing and computer time among young adults. We analyzed self-reported TV viewing (h/week) and leisure computer time (h/week) from 475 Dutch young adults (47% male) who had participated in the Amsterdam Growth and Health Longitudinal Study at the age of 32 and 36 years. Sociodemographic factors (i.e., marital and employment status), physical factors (i.e., skin folds, aerobic fitness, neuromotor fitness, back problems), psychological factors (i.e., problem- and emotion-focused coping, personality), lifestyle (i.e., alcohol consumption, smoking, energy intake, physical activity), and self-rated health (i.e., general health status, mild health complaints) were assessed. Univariable and multivariable generalized estimating equations were performed. Male gender, higher sum of skin folds, lower values of aerobic fitness, higher rigidity, higher self-sufficiency/recalcitrance, and smoking were positively associated with TV time. Male gender, higher sum of skin folds, higher scores on self-esteem, low energy intake, and a not so good general health status were significantly associated with higher computer time. Determinants of TV viewing and computer time were not identical, suggesting that both behaviors (a) have different at-risk populations and (b) should be targeted differently.

Download the full article here.

New AGHLS research published: Sleep quality and duration are related to microvascular function: the Amsterdam Growth and Health Longitudinal Study

Sleep and sleep disorders are related to cardiovascular disease, and microvascular function is an early cardiovascular disease marker. Therefore, the relationship of sleep (measured in sleep quality and duration) with microvascular function was examined in healthy adults. Sleep quality was assessed with the validated Sleep Wake Experience List (SWEL) questionnaire. Duration of sleep was self-reported in an additional question. Microvascular function was measured using nailfold capillaroscopy. Linear regression analyses were used to examine the relationship between sleep and microvascular function. Potential confounders included physical activity, smoking, blood pressure, body mass index and several biochemical parameters. Analyses were performed in 259 participants (116 men). For women reporting insufficient (<7 h) sleep duration, microvascular function (post-ischaemic capillary recruitment) was significantly lower (b = -11.17; P = 0.04) compared to women reporting sufficient sleep duration. There was no relationship between sleep quality and microvascular function in females. In males, a trend towards lower capillary recruitment was found in those reporting a combination of poor sleep quality and insufficient duration (b = -7.54; P = 0.09), compared to those reporting good sleep quality as well as sufficient duration. This study suggests an association between sleep and microvascular function. Which aspects of sleep exactly affect microvascular function, and if indeed the association is different between males and females in other samples, needs further research.

The full manuscript can be downloaded here.

New AGHLS research published; Number and appraisal of daily hassles and life events in young adulthood: the association with physical activity and screen time: a longitudinal cohort study

Young adults face radical life changes regarding residence, marriage, family and work that may negatively impact their health behaviours. Therefore, we investigated the associations of the number of daily hassles and life events and their subjective appraisal with physical activity and screen time in young adulthood.

Data came from participants of the Amsterdam Growth and Health Longitudinal Study (AGAHLS). Self-reported physical activity (min/wk) was used from wave 6 (1991; mean age 27), wave 7 (1993; mean age 29), wave 8 (1996/1997; mean age 32) and 9 (2000; mean age 36). Self-reported screen time (h/wk) was assessed in waves 8 and 9. The number and the appraisal of daily hassles and major life events were assessed with the Everyday Problem Checklist and Life Events List, respectively (including five life event domains, i.e.: health, work, home/family, personal/social relations, and finances). The final sample included 474 participants for the physical activity analyses and 475 participants for the screen time analyses. To test the longitudinal associations of daily hassles and life events with physical activity and screen time, univariable and multivariable Generalised Estimating Equations were performed. Effect modification by gender was tested.

Physical activity levels were higher in those who had experienced more daily hassles. People who reported higher subjective appraisal in the work and finances life event domains also had higher levels of physical activity, although only the subjective appraisal in the finances domain remained significant in the multivariable model. No significant associations between number and subjective appraisal of daily hassles and life events and screen time were observed.

The occurrence of specific life events may be more influential for people’s physical activity behaviour than their respective sum or emotional tone. Still, the assessment of daily hassles may be a relevant addition in this research field. Finally, we suggest that daily hassles and life events are less important for explaining screen time behaviour than for physical activity.

Read the full article here.

The Association between IGF-1 Polymorphisms, IGF-1 Serum Levels, and Cognitive Functions in Healthy Adults

Several studies have demonstrated an association between polymorphisms in the insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) gene and IGF-1 serum levels. IGF-1 levels have been associated with cognitive functioning in older persons and growth hormone deficient patients. The present study investigates whether IGF-1 polymorphisms, IGF-1 levels, and cognition are interconnected in healthy adults. Data of 277 participants (mean age: 42.4 years) of the Amsterdam Growth and Health Longitudinal Study on IGF-1 promoter polymorphisms, IGF-1 serum level, spatial working memory (SWM), paired associate learning (PAL), and IQ tests were analyzed. (M)ANOVAs were applied to confirm the associations between IGF-1 polymorphisms and IGF-1 levels and between IGF-1 levels and cognition. Three groups were distinguished based on specific IGF-1 polymorphism alleles: a homozygote 192 bp/192 bp genotype, a heterozygote 192 bp/x genotype, and a noncarrier x/x genotype. Although different IGF-1 levels were found for the three genotypes, performance on all cognitive tasks and IQ measures was similar. Despite the associations between IGF-1 polymorphisms and IGF-1 levels, no association was found between cognition and IGF-1 levels. It seems that IGF-1 does not play a role in the cognitive performance of healthy middle-aged adults. Possible, IGF-1 fulfills a more developmental and protective role in cognition which becomes apparent during childhood, old-age, or disease.

Read the full article here.

Bas van Bussel defends his PhD thesis

Bas van Bussel defended his thesis “Endothelial dysfunction and low‐grade inflammation: determined by diet and cause of arterial stiffness” at Maastricht University on May 28, 2014. His thesis contains several chapters describing AGHLS data. Congratulations!