In the last few years, study after study has linked sitting to a wide range of health issues. They include obesity, heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.1
Sitting is so bad for you that one doctor coined the phrase “Sitting is the new smoking.”
Now, a new study finds that sitting is not only harmful to your body, it also can hasten the deterioration of your brain.2
UCLA researchers took a detailed look at how sitting affected the brains of 35 adult subjects. They monitored their physical activity and the amount of time they spent sitting.
Then they took high-resolution MRI scans of each person’s medial temporal lobe (MTL). This is the region of the brain involved in the formation and storage of memories. A thinning MTL is a precursor of cognitive decline and dementia.3
The researchers found a direct correlation between sitting time and MTL thinning. The more time subjects spent sitting, the thinner their MTL became.4
And there was another significant finding… Strenuous exercise did not compensate for sitting. In other words, subjects who sat for extended periods still suffered premature brain aging even if they worked out regularly.5
The study was published recently in the journal PlosONE.
9 Ways to Sit Less
If you have an office job, it can be difficult to avoid sitting for long stretches. But there are simple steps you can take to protect your body and brain:6
- Step away from the desk. Resist the temptation to eat at your desk. Use your lunchtime to get up and go somewhere else.
- Take a short stroll every hour…even if it’s just to the bathroom or the water cooler. You can set an alarm on your phone to remind you.
- Walk while you talk. Make it a habit to pace when you take phone calls.
- Stand up and stretch. It isn’t healthy to maintain the same posture for more than 30 minutes. At least every half hour, stand up. Do these simple office stretches recommended by the Mayo Clinic.
- Wear comfortable clothes and shoes. If you’re wearing towering heels or a stiff suit, you won’t want to move. Even if your office requires formal dress, you can choose a chunkier heel or find a suit made from flexible fabric.
- Take the stairs. Avoid elevators.
- Take a two-minute exercise break…at your desk. Squats, pushups, leg lifts, planks, and other stationary exercises can be done right at your desk.
- Track your steps. Use a Fitbit or a cellphone app like Google Fit or Runkeeper. Find out how many steps you do in a normal day and set a goal to improve.
- Have a ball. For part of the day, exchange your chair for an exercise ball. They will change which muscles you use while sitting.
What about trendy standup desks? They’re no better than sitting.
One study found that people who stand at work are almost twice as likely to develop heart disease as their non-standing co-workers.7
Editor’s Note: If you’re worried about staying mentally sharp, there’s something else you should know…
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