We live in a society where we sit—all day, every day. Whenever we need to use our brain’s power, we are sitting. We sit while staring at computers at our desks and workstations, while on our smartphones, whether at home or Starbucks, while watching television, or while doing an exam or a crossword puzzle. Have you ever stopped to think if all this sitting is healthy for your brain? Well, recent research suggests it most definitely is not.
If you’re looking to preserve your memory, leading researchers say you must get up and move more often. In a recent study, scientists discovered that in people middle aged and older the brain structure that is key to learning and memory is strongest in those who spend the most time standing up and moving around. They also found that at every age, people who sit down during the majority of their day show less thickness in the medial temporal lobe and the sub-regions that make it up.
That thinning should give us all pause. Loss of volume in this area of the brain occurs naturally as we age, and the result is the memory lapses we see in the older generation. But shrinkage of the brain and its memory center becomes more pronounced in people with diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia. Preserving those brain cells should be of utmost importance to us all to preserve our memories and recall.
This research study was based on interviews and tests done at UCLA’s Semel Institute and its Center for Cognitive Neuroscience on 35 cognitively healthy people between the ages of 45 and 75. The volunteers were asked about their activity levels and had MRIs of their brains. The scientists compared the self-reported activity levels to the thickness in critical brain structures. The conclusion was that for every additional hour of sitting daily, there was a 2% decrease in the thickness of the medial temporal lobe. In other words, someone who sits 15 hours a day would have a 10% thinner medial temporal lobe than someone who sat for 10 hours a day. That’s a lot of missing brain matter!
The study also found that the type of exercise or its intensity didn’t affect the depth of the medial temporal lobe. This was a surprise to the researchers as it had been previously believed that brain volume is higher and cognitive performance better in someone who works out more intensely. It appears that short bursts of intense exercise will not undo the damage of too much sitting does nearly as well as sitting less and moving around more. Read more about the study here.
More study and better ways to measure the effects of a sedentary lifestyle are needed, but for now it seems that if you sit for extended periods of time, the more harmful it is to your brain. Even if you’re physically active on a regular basis, you may need to adjust how often and how long you’re sitting at your computer or watching television every day. If you’re looking to plump up your brain and keep your memory sharp, the message is clear. Get up!
Move while you’re on the phone, dance to some music, take a walk on breaks or at lunchtime. And if you work on a computer all day, set an hourly reminder to get up and move around.
You can also utilize your BrainTap headset and the BrainTap library full of audio-sessions to set aside some rest and recovery time during the day. This will energize you so you’re more motivated to get up and move regularly and avoid the couch potato syndrome. BrainTap also helps build new neural pathways in the brain to keep your brain sharp and focused and improve your memory skills to combat the damage our modern lifestyle brings. Try out the BrainTap Pro app today for FREE!