Sitting Too Long Could Put Your Brain Health At Risk
- Prolonged sitting has been linked to less brain volume in a region important for memory
- Experts advise desk workers to stand or walk for two hours out of the day
- Sitting has been shown to harm your heart and increase cancer risk
Here’s a case against watching Netflix on the couch all weekend: All that vegging could rot your brain.
For years, doctors and scientists have lectured about the dangers of being inactive, so it’s not exactly surprising that being a couch potato is bad for your health. But a new study published this month in PLOS One reveals that sitting for too long can change a region in our brains vital for memory.
In the latest research on the effects of being a bum, researchers studied the brain health of 35 people between 45 and 75 years old. Participants answered questions about their activity level, including how much time was spent sitting, walking, and performing vigorous or moderate physical activity each day.
Then, high-resolution MRI scans were performed to give scientists a detailed look at each person’s medial temporal lobe, an area that helps us form new memories. The team identified patterns between sitting, activity levels and brain thickness, and found that people who reported sitting for longer periods of time were more likely to have thinner medial temporal lobes.
Although being sedentary was linked to less brain volume, the study does not show that being lazy causes your brain to diminish. More research is necessary before we can blame our forgetfulness on prolonged periods of sitting.
This isn’t the only paper indicating that inactivity is bad for our brains.
As Men’sHealth.com previously reported, an Australian study found that men who sat for at least six hours a day were more likely to feel tired, nervous, restless or hopeless compared to those who spent less time on their butts.
And this new paper only adds to the myriad research concluding that we need to move more. A meta-analysis from Germany found that people who spent the most time sitting each day were more likely to be diagnosed with colon cancer compared to those who were active. Plus, vegging out is associated with an increased risk of diabetes, obesity and back pain.
Now that we’ve convinced you to step away from the keyboard, how often should you take a break?
About two hours a day, according to health experts. Published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, a study by an international team of doctors and researchers suggests that people with desk-based jobs aim to stand or walk for two hours every day. Of course, they're not suggesting you take an extra-long lunch, but find a variety of ways to take breaks throughout the day.
“To achieve this, seated-based work should be regularly broken up with standing-based work, the use of sit–stand desks, or the taking of short active standing breaks,” they advise.
Or, you could try out this office chair workout for a quick way to de-stress your mind and body. You may get a few strange looks from desk-bound colleagues, but hey, it's worth it.