In general, an actively physically active lifestyle offers many health benefits, particularly in terms of brain structure and how it works. Although there is less research done by scientists, there is some research into the effects a sedentary lifestyle has on certain physical and mental aspects. This is due to the fact that nowadays more and more people live a predominantly sedentary life, even if they exercise regularly.
Some studies even suggest that a sedentary lifestyle could be a risk factor for developing age-related cognitive degeneration.
The results suggest that 13% of Alzheimer’s cases worldwide could be due to a sedentary lifestyle. Therefore, a 25% reduction would prevent more than a million of these cases.
How are sedentary lifestyles and cognition related?
When cognitive abilities decline, an area of the brain called the middle temporal lobe develops atrophy, which has been linked to memory impairment and Alzheimer’s disease. In addition, researchers have observed in numerous studies that physical activity affects the condition of this area, especially the hippocamus.
This is because the brain is supplied with sufficient blood, which leads to better brain function, promotes the formation of new neurons and delays degeneration.
While physical activity has these beneficial effects, a sedentary lifestyle leads to changes in blood sugar levels, which leads to decreased blood flow. In fact, these studies have found that a sedentary lifestyle leads to a decrease in white matter in just five years.
A recent study by the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) revealed the effects of a sedentary lifestyle on areas of the brain associated with memory. The scientists concentrated not only on the time that a person is physically active, but also on the time that a healthy person spends sitting down every day.
For this study, the researchers looked at 49 healthy people with an average age of 60 years. First, the subjects had to fill out various questionnaires about their level of physical activity and the hours they spent sitting. This was followed by an MRI and they went through further neuropsychological tests. The researchers were able to observe the thickness of the cerebral cortex and its performance in relation to cognitive functions such as memory.
From this research, they found that the cerebral cortex of people with sedentary lifestyles was thinner in some areas. So the level of physical activity wasn’t all that relevant. That’s because the study looked specifically at memory.
Therefore , the researchers concluded that a sedentary lifestyle can better predict performance in terms of these functions. This means that even a physically active lifestyle will not be enough to offset the effects of sitting for long periods of time during the rest of the day.
What can you do?
Despite these results, regular physical activity is always recommended. Because scientific evidence shows that it improves the performance of cognitive functions, cerebral vascularization and neurogenesis.
In addition, many activities affect the performance of the brain. For example reading, learning languages, playing intellectual games and also interactions with other people. Still, experts recommend maintaining a healthy and active lifestyle. Whenever possible, try to walk instead of driving and use the stairs instead of the elevator.
If you follow this advice, you will greatly improve your chances. In addition, you will feel better and make the most of your time!