Sitting in your desk continuously seems to affect people in all possible way. We know that sitting continuously increases the risk of putting on weight due to lower energy expenditure and reduced metabolism. It might also pave way for back pain, neck pain and leg pain due to long hours in the chair with inappropriate postures. But now, sitting for long hours is associated with memory problems too!
Researchers have found that continuously sitting for a long time, like almost spending your entire day in the desk chair, is linked to changes in some parts of the brain that define memory levels in an individual. As we age, diminishing memory is not uncommon! But memory problems in middle-aged and above middle-aged people is unacceptable.
Researchers studied around 35 people aged between 45 and 75 years and asked about their physical activity levels and the number of hours per day they spent sitting. Every person’s median temporal lobe (MTL) underwent an MRI scan as it is the MTL region of the brain that’s responsible for memory. Sitting for extended periods leads to thinning of MTL and any amount of physical activity remains insufficient to negate the harmful effects of sitting. One noteworthy thing is that, this study does not prove that too much sitting causes thinner brain structures, but instead the fact that more hours spent sitting is related to thinner regions. Every participant reported that he/she spent 3-7 hours per day sitting in his/her desk and with every hour of sitting, there was a decrease in brain thickness. Also, while the study focused on the number of hours the participants spent sitting, it did not probe into the details of the same-whether the participants took any breaks sitting or not!
Alzheimer’s in old age is acceptable. Brain shrinks and the memory centers become pronounced in dementia, and the thinning of the cortex contributes to these greatly. Even before the onset of Alzheimer’s, density and volume of the hippocampus and the entorhinal cortex changes.
Just because physical activity has no impact on cortex thickness, this cannot be a matter to celebrate for all couch potatoes. This also proves the point that it is sitting for long hours and not physical activity that becomes the more significant factor between the two causing harmful side effects. Even active people who sit for long hours can be impacted by this and people who are habituated to long hours of sitting cannot escape from the clutches of memory damage even with regular intense physical activity sessions.
If you wish to keep your brain sharp and revisit your happy memories in life later, get up, move around, stand while you speak over the phone, dance with your headphones on, go for a short walk post lunch and introduce walking meetings. Walking meetings are the latest trend and the website www.firsteatright.com gives you a complete insight on this. Absorbed in work, you might not seem to notice the clock ticking away and it is better to set hourly reminders to stand up, walk around and get back to your place. These help you stay active and fit.
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.