Sitting is bad for your brain -- not just your metabolism or heart

Kenny Tucker
April 17, 2018

United States researchers have published preliminary studies that show that sitting down for too long can reduce the thickness of the medial temporal lobe, a brain structure that is very involved in memory. Thinning of this region is associated with memory decline or cognitive decline and dementia among the elderly.

A lot of us need to do a lot of sitting as part of our jobs, and it's not uncommon for today's people, in general, to sit down for long periods of time.

Previous studies have found links between sedentary behavior and an increase in risks for heart disease, diabetes and early death in middle-aged and senior adults. UCLA biostatistician and study lead author Prabha Siddarth was also quoted by the Los Angeles Times as saying that "better ways to measure patterns of sedentary behavior" might be needed in upcoming studies.

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To find out more, the researchers recruited 35 people who did not have dementia, aged between 45 and 75 (25 women, 10 men). With every hour of sitting every day, there was an observed reduction in brain density, inning accordance with the research study. This was done using the self-reported International Physical Activity Questionnaire modified for older adults (IPAQ-E). It was found that even high levels of physical activity could not offset the impact of sedentary practices, including lesser gray matter in the lobe. The participants said they spent from 3 to 7 hours in a chair per day, on average. Utilizing a high-resolution MRI scan, the researchers got a comprehensive take a look at the median temporal lobe of each individual and determined relationships amongst this area's density, the individuals' exercise levels and their sitting habits, inning accordance with the research study.

The researchers next hope to follow a group of people for a longer duration to determine if sitting causes the thinning and what role gender, race, and weight might play in brain health related to sitting.

The study recieved support from the National Institutes of Health, Department of Energy, the McLoughlin Gift Fund for Cognitive Health, the Larry L. Hillblom Foundation, Fran and Ray Stark Foundation Fund for Alzheimer's Disease Research, Ahmanson Foundation, Lovelace Foundation, the Sence Foundation, the UCLA Claude Pepper Older Americans Independence Center funded by the National Institute on Aging, AFAR, the John A. Hartford Foundation and the Centers of Excellence National Program.

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