UCLA researchers found that individuals who spend too much time sitting down may be more likely to have memory impairment and Alzheimer’s disease.
In a study published Thursday, researchers at the UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior examined a group of 35 middle-aged and older adults and found a correlation between increased sedentary behavior and reduced thickness of the medial temporal lobe, a region of the brain critical for memory formation.
The researchers asked participants to fill out a questionnaire that recorded their daily physical activities and average time spent sitting per day. Participants also received MRI scanning on their brain that measured the volume of multiple brain structures.
The result does not prove that excessive sedentary behavior causes the MTL to decrease in volume, according to the study. However, it shows that longer sedentary behavior is linked to reduced thickness in the brain region, which is a known precursor to cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease in those who are middle aged or older.
The paper adds that although there are not many studies on the relationship between sedentary behavior and brain health, a large amount of research has shown that physical activity positively affects brain structure. Despite not being able to determine causation, the researchers found the thickness of the participants’ MTL is more closely related to the amount of time a person spends sitting than to their amount of physical activity.
This result indicates that the impact of long-term sitting might be so significant that even intense physical activity is not sufficient to offset the harmful effects of sitting for extended periods of time, the researchers said in the paper.
The paper’s findings show that spending less time sitting can ultimately be more beneficial than increasing physical exercise.