Home Health News Could Too Much Sitting Possibly Make Your Brain Thinner?

Could Too Much Sitting Possibly Make Your Brain Thinner?

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Are you keeping track of how long you are sitting each day? (Photo: Shutterstock)

Sitting too much isn’t supposed to make you thin, right? Well, it may depend on what part of&nbsp;your body you are talking about, according to a study recently published in PLOS ONE. And thinner is not always better.

For the study, a team of researchers from UCLA and the University of Adelaide studied&nbsp;35 non-demented adults (25 women and 10 men)&nbsp;who were from 45 to 75 years old. They gave each study participant the International Physical Activity Questionnaire to determine how many hours on average they spent sitting and how much physical activity they got each day. Each study participant also underwent a&nbsp;high resolution MRI scans of his or her brain. The researchers found that the more hours each subject reported sitting each day, the thinner the medial temporal lobes of their brains tended to be. Each hour of additional sitting correlated with a&nbsp;medial temporal lobe&nbsp;that’s 2% thinner.&nbsp;In other words, someone who sat for ten hours a day tended to have a 6% thinner medial temporal lobe than someone who sat seven hours a day. Interestingly, there were no such correlations between physical activity levels and medial temporal lobe&nbsp;thickness.&nbsp;

Someone telling you that your medial temporal lobe looks so slender and thin is not a compliment. This part of the brain&nbsp;is responsible&nbsp;for forming longer term memories. Your medial temporal lobe tends to thin as you age. Much greater loss of the&nbsp;medial temporal lobe usually occurs in patients with dementia such as those with Alzheimer’s Disease. In other words, losing that part of&nbsp;your brain could lead to losing&nbsp;your ability to remember things.&nbsp;

Why would sitting affect your brain unless you are constantly sitting on your head? There are a number of possibilities. When you sit, your blood may not be circulating as much throughout your body and thus your brain. This could mean that your brain is not getting as much oxygen or the waste products in your brain aren’t being cleared out as effectively. You also don’t burn as many calories, which could lead to weight issues, which then alter a wide variety of mechanisms in your body. Another possibility is that sitting may affect your body’s metabolic machinery and hormones so that your brain is not getting as many nutrients or is being exposed to other conditions such as higher blood sugar. More studies are needed to figure out what is actually happening.

Of course, this study does not prove that sitting will make part of your brain thinner. A study with only 35 people has many limitations. Maybe in this study, the people who were more likely to sit more each day also were more likely to be less active socially, have less stimulating jobs, or have other circumstances that could be affecting their brains. Alternatively, could thinning medial temporal lobes somehow be affecting their behaviors so that they sat more? Once again, correlations and associations do not mean cause-and-effect.

Nonetheless, this study does add to the concern that&nbsp;”sitting is the new smoking”, which by the way nothing to do with “cigarette butts.” Other studies have associated regularly sitting for lengthy periods of time with increased risks of&nbsp;obesity,&nbsp;diabetes,&nbsp;muscle and back problems,&nbsp;cancer, and other health problems. Of course, this may not sit too well with you if you are sitting down while reading this. So try to keep moving. Do squats. Walk over to talk to someone rather emailing, texting, or Facebooking him or her. Pace around. Dance like there’s no one looking. Remember to stay active, just in case it may eventually affect your ability to remember.

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Are you keeping track of how long you are sitting each day? (Photo: Shutterstock)

Sitting too much isn’t supposed to make you thin, right? Well, it may depend on what part of your body you are talking about, according to a study recently published in PLOS ONE. And thinner is not always better.

For the study, a team of researchers from UCLA and the University of Adelaide studied 35 non-demented adults (25 women and 10 men) who were from 45 to 75 years old. They gave each study participant the International Physical Activity Questionnaire to determine how many hours on average they spent sitting and how much physical activity they got each day. Each study participant also underwent a high resolution MRI scans of his or her brain. The researchers found that the more hours each subject reported sitting each day, the thinner the medial temporal lobes of their brains tended to be. Each hour of additional sitting correlated with a medial temporal lobe that’s 2% thinner. In other words, someone who sat for ten hours a day tended to have a 6% thinner medial temporal lobe than someone who sat seven hours a day. Interestingly, there were no such correlations between physical activity levels and medial temporal lobe thickness. 

Someone telling you that your medial temporal lobe looks so slender and thin is not a compliment. This part of the brain is responsible for forming longer term memories. Your medial temporal lobe tends to thin as you age. Much greater loss of the medial temporal lobe usually occurs in patients with dementia such as those with Alzheimer’s Disease. In other words, losing that part of your brain could lead to losing your ability to remember things. 

Why would sitting affect your brain unless you are constantly sitting on your head? There are a number of possibilities. When you sit, your blood may not be circulating as much throughout your body and thus your brain. This could mean that your brain is not getting as much oxygen or the waste products in your brain aren’t being cleared out as effectively. You also don’t burn as many calories, which could lead to weight issues, which then alter a wide variety of mechanisms in your body. Another possibility is that sitting may affect your body’s metabolic machinery and hormones so that your brain is not getting as many nutrients or is being exposed to other conditions such as higher blood sugar. More studies are needed to figure out what is actually happening.

Of course, this study does not prove that sitting will make part of your brain thinner. A study with only 35 people has many limitations. Maybe in this study, the people who were more likely to sit more each day also were more likely to be less active socially, have less stimulating jobs, or have other circumstances that could be affecting their brains. Alternatively, could thinning medial temporal lobes somehow be affecting their behaviors so that they sat more? Once again, correlations and associations do not mean cause-and-effect.

Nonetheless, this study does add to the concern that “sitting is the new smoking”, which by the way nothing to do with “cigarette butts.” Other studies have associated regularly sitting for lengthy periods of time with increased risks of obesitydiabetesmuscle and back problemscancer, and other health problems. Of course, this may not sit too well with you if you are sitting down while reading this. So try to keep moving. Do squats. Walk over to talk to someone rather emailing, texting, or Facebooking him or her. Pace around. Dance like there’s no one looking. Remember to stay active, just in case it may eventually affect your ability to remember.

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