We all know that sitting in a chair in our office all day -- staring at a computer screen -- is not conducive to our good health. In fact, scientists have already found that sitting for long periods of time can cause all sorts of problems, including heart disease, diabetes, increased blood pressure, obesity, abnormal cholesterol levels, and more. In one study, people who sat in front of a TV for more than four hours a day had almost a 50 percent increased risk of death.
Well, just when you thought that you'd heard all the bad news about sitting in your office all day, it turns out there's more -- much more.
According to a study just published by researchers at UCLA, sitting for prolonged periods of time (like in an office, in front of a computer) may increase the risk of Alzheimer's and dementia. For those of us who value our minds and our memories, this is particularly bad news.
The study, led by Prabha Siddarth of the Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior at UCLA, looked at a group of test subjects between the ages of 45 and 75 -- asking them the average number of hours they spent sitting each day during the previous week. The brains of the subjects were scanned via high-resolution MRI to assess the thickness of their medial temporal lobes -- the part of the brain crucial to the creation and storage of memories.
The news was not good.
The test subjects who seated longer each day were found by the researchers to have thinner medial temporal lobes, which according to a statement released by UCLA, "can be a precursor to cognitive decline and dementia in middle-aged and older adults."
Perhaps most shocking was that, according to the researchers, "physical activity, even at high levels, is insufficient to offset the harmful effects of sitting for extended periods." In other words, taking a walk around the block at lunch or hitting the gym after work isn't going to reduce the damage to your brain from all that sitting.
The researchers plan to take a deeper look at this problem, exploring what role gender, race, and weight might play in the negative effects of long periods of sitting each day. In the meantime, I strongly suggest that you spend less time sitting at your desk and more time moving around. Get out of your chair for a few minutes at least once every hour -- more often if you can. Your brain will thank you.