A new study published in JAMA suggests that people who sit for extended periods at work and at home face a significantly higher risk of developing dementia compared to those who sit less. This risk appears to hold even for individuals who engage in regular exercise, indicating that exercise alone may not be enough to counteract the negative effects of prolonged sitting.
The study involved 49,841 participants aged 60 or older and found that prolonged sedentary behavior is associated with an increased risk of dementia. The study relied on objective measures of sitting obtained from activity trackers worn by the participants.
Results showed that individuals who sat for at least 10 hours a day had an 8 percent higher risk of developing dementia within the next seven years compared to those who sat for fewer than 10 hours. The risk increased further, with those sitting for at least 12 hours daily facing a 63 percent greater risk of dementia.
Exercise did not seem to offer significant protection against dementia for those who spent long hours sitting. Even individuals who exercised but sat for 10 hours or more daily had a similar risk of dementia as those who did not exercise much at all.
The study also found that taking short breaks from sitting, such as walking or standing, did not substantially reduce the dementia risk associated with prolonged sitting. Instead, what mattered most was the total number of hours spent sitting each day.
While standing desks and similar solutions may help reduce sitting time, the study did not provide conclusive evidence on their effectiveness in lowering dementia risk. The key takeaway from the research is that the best way to mitigate the risk of dementia associated with prolonged sitting is to find ways to sit less overall. This includes incorporating movement into the daily routine, such as walking during phone calls or scheduling walking meetings.
However, it’s important to note that this study shows an association between sitting and dementia risk but does not prove causation. Further research is needed to understand the underlying mechanisms and relationships between sedentary behavior and cognitive decline.