Sitting for too long can affect memory

Earlier studies have shown that prolonged periods of sedentary life, which means sitting too long at a stretch during the day, could be bad for the heart and health in general. Cardiovascular health problems and sitting have been associated in several studies, but a new study from the researchers at the University of California Los Angeles has found that it could also be associated with memory decline and overall decline in brain functions.

Image Credit: Dave Clark Digital Photo / Shutterstock
Image Credit: Dave Clark Digital Photo / Shutterstock

The results from the new study titled, “Sedentary behavior associated with reduced medial temporal lobe thickness in middle-aged and older adults,” appear in the latest issue of the journal PLOS One.

The researchers noted that as the hours of sitting or being sedentary rose, there was a significant thinning in the medial temporal lobe of the brain. This region is responsible for formation of new memories. With the decline in structure of this lobe the memory formation too suffers. Thinning of this region is associated with memory decline or cognitive decline and dementia among the elderly.

For this study the team of researchers looked at 35 middle-aged and elderly people (25 women were included in the group. The population was aged between 45 and 75 years) whose time spent sitting or in physical activity was tracked over a week. Their brains were scanned using an advanced MRI and their temporal lobes were studied in details. Researchers explain that one stretch of time spent sitting is more relevant than general overall physical activity. This means that the longer a person sits at a stretch, the worse the effects could be.

The researchers write, “Sedentary behavior is a significant predictor of thinning of the [medial temporal lobe] and that physical activity, even at high levels, is insufficient to offset the harmful effects of sitting for extended periods.”

They add that this was a small study and more detailed and larger studies are necessary to come to conclusions regarding extended periods of sitting and brain health. UCLA biostatistician and study lead author Prabha Siddarth explained that better study tools are necessary to understand the various patterns of sedentary behavior – extended periods of it or sitting with intermittent moving about etc.

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