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Prolonged Sitting is Bad for Your Brain, Too


Researchers keep discovering adverse health effects associated with too much sitting. In the latest study, they found a sedentary lifestyle is linked to thinning of the region of the brain critical for memory.

Earlier investigations show prolonged sitting, like smoking, increases the risk of diabetes, heart disease and premature death. Therefore, scientists at UCLA wanted to see how it influences brain health.

In the study, thirty-five participants ages 45 to 75 were asked how much they exercised and how many hours per day they spent sitting during the previous week. The individuals were given an MRI scan to measure the thickness of their brains medial temporal lobe (MTL), the region important in creating new memories.

Participants reported spending between three and seven hours per day sitting, and the more hours they sat, the more the thickness of the MTL decreased. Therefore, sedentary behavior correlated with thinning of the MTL. On the other hand, physical activity had no effect on the thickness of the MTL, which indicates that even exercise at high levels is inadequate to counter the damaging effects of prolonged sitting on memory. Although earlier research shows exercise is linked to greater brain volume and a larger size of the hippocampus, it doesnt appear to prevent shrinkage of the MTL.

The study shows a link rather than a cause-effect relationship. However, the researchers hope to conduct a longer study in the future to ascertain if sitting too long can cause brain thinning, as well as to see if other factors, such as weight and gender, can play a role.

Because MTL thinning can precede cognitive decline, reducing sedentary behavior might be a possible intervention for improving brain function in people who are at risk for Alzheimers disease, the scientists said.

Lead author Dr. Keith Diaz, from Columbia University Medical Center said more frequent breaks from sitting may be the solution: reports Newsweek. The more vigorous the movements are during these breaks, the more beneficial they will be.

The study was published in the journal PLOS One.

Take Mini-Breaks from Sitting

Live in the Now consulted several fitness experts to learn how often to take breaks from sitting and get ideas on exactly how to do it. They gave the advice below:

  • Alex Tauberg advised following the 20/20 rule, which is to get up and walk 20 seconds for every 20 minutes of sitting. Once you get up and start walking around, if you don’t have to sit down, then don’t. Go for a walk, he said.
  • Physical therapist Jasmine Marcus recommended activities such as doing five squats during every commercial break when watching TV, and practicing balancing on one leg while waiting for something to heat up in the microwave.
  • Physical therapist Aideen Turner advocated drinking lots of water throughout the day, a practice that will provide the hydration needed for good health, along with stimulate the need to go to the restroom frequently. She suggested only using the restroom upstairs, which will necessitate a little extra exercise.

The possibilities for mini breaks are only limited to your imagination. It doesnt matter so much what you do during your mini breaks: the main thing to remember is to just keep moving.


Mary West is a natural health enthusiast, as she believes this area can profoundly enhance wellness. She is the creator of a natural healing website where she focuses on solutions to health problems that work without side effects. You can visit her site and learn more at Ms. West is also the author of Fight Cancer Through Powerful Natural Strategies.

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