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Sitting down too much can make you stupid – new research says a sedentary lifestyle alters areas of the brain linked to memory


You watch what you eat and make sure you get a good night’s sleep. You regularly step outdoors to get your daily dose of natural vitamin D from the sun. But on weekdays, you work an eight-hour job that requires you to stay tied to your desk practically the whole time.

According to a new study, this unhealthy lifestyle could offset most everything you’ve done to stay healthy. Researchers from the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) found that sitting too long, like smoking, carries the same risks. These include heart disease, diabetes, and even premature death.

In their quest to see if a sedentary lifestyle affects brain health, researchers gathered 35 people aged between 45 to 75. The research team asked them about their physical activities and the usual number of hours they spent sitting during the previous week. Each of the participants underwent a high-resolution MRI scan, which gave a detailed view of the medial temporal lobe (MTL) a part of the brain responsible for creating new memories.

The researchers discovered that sedentary behavior can significantly predict thinning of the MTL. They also found out that the harmful effects of sitting to brain health are irreversible. Not even high levels of physical activity can compensate for the damage that has been done.

Our present-day lifestyle, characterized by the prevalence of gadgets that make us sit down for longer periods of time, makes sedentary behavior part of our daily routine. If you can’t change this kind of lifestyle, what can do you to reduce its effects? Get up during commercial breaks; stand up; fold clothes; do a few push-ups or sit-ups; wash the dishes; stretch; take out the garbage, etc. Break up that sedentary time that comes from screen-based activities.

Putter around the garden – The American Heart Association classifies gardening as moderate exercise. Many people with green thumbs will tell you gardening is not only mentally and spiritually uplifting, but it is also good exercise which prevents obesity.

Run – A recent study showed that even a 5-to-10-minute run a day at slow speeds (less than six miles per hour) can reduce the risk of death from all causes. It also reduces the risk of developing heart disease.

Stand up – It pays to stand up every 20 minutes or get away momentarily from your desk. You can also work on a standing desk or take calls standing up. Stand up and fill your water jug to the brim at the water station to prolong the time you’re standing up. Instead of chatting online, walk over to a colleague’s cubicle and talk about work. The face-to-face communication will also allow you to exchange more ideas and observe each other’s reactions.

Take the stairs – Climbing the stairs expends eight to nine times more energy than sitting down and around seven times more energy than taking the elevator.

Walk – The Nurses’ Health Study found that people who walked briskly or had moderate exercise for at least 30 minutes a day had a low risk of sudden cardiac death during 26 years of follow up. Another study revealed that walking can prevent dementia more than any number of crossword puzzles can. Still another study revealed that three five-minute walks throughout a workday can offset the harm in peripheral leg arteries brought about by too much sitting.

So get up, leave that computer chair for a while and get going. Your body – and mind – will thank you for it.


June 6, 2018


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