Too Much Sitting: Its Effect On Your Brain

There’s been a lot of buzz lately about how living a sedentary lifestyle can directly impact our physical health. The “sitting is the new smoking” directive focuses on how having a mostly inactive daily routine can cause a number of chronic health conditions such as high blood sugar, obesity, and high blood pressure. However, recent research shows that spending excessive amounts of time sitting down can go beyond our physical health. Our deskbound tendencies can actually have a direct impact on our brain and cognitive capabilities. 

How Sitting Can Change Your Brain

The Bureau of Labor Statistics show that most people average 40% of their workday chair bound (with some jobs being even higher) – a trend that can have a direct impact on our brains. A recent report showed published in the journal PLOS one found that people who sat for more of the day actually had thinner brain regions than those who did not. Worse yet, the same study also demonstrated that exercising did not restore these structures or reverse the damage. This thinning of the Medial Temporal Lobe (MTL) can be a precursor to memory decline and even dementia in later life. While the study doesn’t prove that sitting itself is what causes damage to brain structure, it does shine a light on the connection between sitting longer and having thinner brain regions in the MTL.

It’s important to note that these findings are just from a preliminary study, warranting further analysis to dig deeper into the correlation. As next steps, researchers would evaluate other variables that may have an influence on brain function, such as weight, gender, and race.  Additionally, scientists may look closer at what types of mental activities people are participating in while sitting. Some researchers believe that there may a difference between “mentally active sitting” where people perform tasks such as completing brain puzzles or writing and “mentally inactive sitting” where participants are engaged in activities such as video games or watching TV. By further probing into these and other factors, scientists can gain a better understanding of any other direct links between a sedentary lifestyle and brain health.

Tips To Sit Less When Working

Unfortunately for many of us, our desk jobs make sitting a part of life. However, there are ways to get moving during the workday. Try to take a break from sitting every 30 minutes or so throughout your day. You can also use a high table or standing desk as your workstation. If you really want to prioritize moving, you can place your computer on a treadmill-ready desk to encourage you to move throughout the day.  

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