Study says too much sitting may harm our brain

stand desk

Photo: SafetyCulture Library

Physical inactivity and excessive sitting can lead to serious health conditions and now, researchers from The University of Western Australia says too much sitting could be bad for the brain.

The researchers, in collaboration with the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute, are examining the prolonged negative impact of sitting on our brains.

The average office worker sits for about 5 hours and 41 minutes every work day, which can have an effect regardless of exercise habits outside of these hours.

Lead researcher UWA PhD student Michael Wheeler said that while the brain is a powerful organ, it needs glucose to function optimally. Glucose levels outside the optimal range are bad for brain health.

“Our brain weighs about two percent of our body mass but demands about 20 percent of our resting energy requirements, which is mostly in the form of glucose – the primary brain fuel,” he said.

“Sitting for long periods throughout the day alters our blood glucose levels, which in turn may affect the brain.”

Mr. Wheeler said that reducing sitting and replacing it with light intensity walking can help keep glucose levels in the optimal range.

“Studies investigating the effects of excessive sitting on brain function have had mixed results so far,” said Mr. Wheeler.

“But what the studies do agree on is that interrupting sitting with regular activity breaks is positive for many aspects of health.

“For scientists, the way in which sitting is likely to affect brain function still poses a research challenge. Based on the available evidence, it’s more likely that reducing sitting would slow cognitive decline, rather than improve cognitive function. Physical activity is also beneficial for other health outcomes.”

The researchers recommend engaging in physical activities and reducing sitting time throughout the day to improve brain health.

The research project is being supported by funding from the National Health and Medical Research Council.

The researchers discussed their findings here.

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