New research suggests that sitting all day hurts memory
You might want to stand up for this.
It’s no surprise that being sedentary is bad for your metabolism and your heart — but now research claims that sitting is also bad for your brain. UCLA researchers have found that sitting too much is linked to changes in a section of the brain that is critical for memory.
The MRI scans and physical activity reports of 35 people ages 45 to 75 showed that sedentary behavior is a significant predictor of the thinning of the medial temporal lobe (the region involved in the formation of new memories), and that physical activity alone is insufficient when it comes to countering the effects of sitting for lengthy periods. So going for a run after work doesn’t erase the eight hours or so you spent glued to your desk chair.
But your brain isn’t the only part of your body suffering from sitting all day. Being sedentary changes our metabolic mechanisms at the cellular level so much, the American Heart Association warns, that long periods of sitting are associated with an increased risk for diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure — all of which can lead to a heart attack, stroke or dementia.
“If you look at the evolution of human beings, you’ll see that for only a small percentage of our existence have we developed the habit of spending the majority of our days in the seated position indoors,” functional medicine specialist Dr. Elroy Vojdani told Moneyish. He added that long periods of sitting have been associated with a significant increased risk of depression and anxiety. “Sitting at your desk all day has been associated with a 50% increased risk of death due to any cause,” he said.
A study published in Annals of Internal Medicine calls sitting the new smoking, and indicates that there’s a direct relationship between sedentary time and one’s risk of early mortality. The site claims that one hour of sitting is as unhealthy as smoking two cigarettes, and that getting up and moving every hour makes all the difference when it comes to reducing the risk of chronic illness. According to Sitting is Smoking, prolonged sitting is the number one contributor to chronic diseases including breast and colon cancer, stroke, Type 2 diabetes and hypertension. And with 85% of America’s workforce being paid to sit at a desk all day, 75% of our healthcare costs are going toward treating chronic diseases.
So how can you stand up against sitting down?
Corporate employees might have the option to request standing desks. These height-adjustable workspaces allow people to compute while standing up, something Smithsonian Magazine claims can reduce the risk of obesity, Type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease — and also reduce the risk of cancer. Additionally, some companies offer corporate wellness solutions like UtiliFIT, a daily fitness activity game that encourages users to get active throughout the day.
In Dr. James Levine’s book “Get Up: Why Your Chair is Killing You and What You Can Do About It,” he offers an abundance of techniques to decrease sitting time. Levine recommends banning email for periods of time, which encourages employees to get up, socialize, walk around and deliver messages in person.
Employers can also link health care plan premiums to the amount of movement employees complete, and hold walk-and-talk meetings instead of sitting in conference rooms.
Another way that people can monitor their activity is by using wearable devices like Jawbone, FitBit and Garmin that help track activity, and provide reminders that it’s time to get up and get moving.
But for those who work remotely, enjoying the creature comforts of home (such as working from your couch, or only walking from your desk to your fridge and back again) can mean getting stuck in unhealthy stationary habits. Purchasing a standing desk like the $395 Varidesk that turns any desk into a standing desk can help foster more movement and a healthier working position.
If you can’t afford one of these pricey solutions, standing at the kitchen counter while propping your laptop up on a stable surface, conducting conference calls from a standing position, or sitting on a stationary bike while typing on an iPad or talking on the phone are all free ways to get off the couch or out of a desk chair.
And Vojdani told Moneyish his three simple rules to follow to avoid being sedentary while working from home. “Make and take all phone calls either standing or walking and use a wired headset to avoid the unnecessary EMF exposure to your head,” he said. “Buy an inflatable fitness ball, and make it a rule to spend 15 to 30 minutes out of every two hours seated on the ball instead of your chair. Instead of a coffee break, take an outdoor break and spend 15 to 30 minutes in the middle of the workday getting some fresh air.”
And if getting outside isn’t in the cards, he recommends trying to do light exercise like squats or crunches to counteract muscle weakness that may develop from being seated.
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