Sitting Over 10 Hours Daily Ups Dementia Risk, Study Finds
In today’s fast-paced world, the nature of our work often requires us to spend long hours seated at our desks. However, a recent study published in JAMA has revealed startling findings about the health risks associated with prolonged sitting, leading many to claim that “sitting is the new smoking”. This research, which examined the lifestyle habits of nearly 50,000 individuals, discovered that those who sit for more than 10 hours daily face a significantly increased risk of dementia within the following seven years.
The study found that the risk of dementia rises by 8% for those who sit for extended periods, and shockingly, it escalates to a staggering 63% for those who remain seated for 12 hours each day. What’s even more alarming is that these elevated risks persist, regardless of whether individuals engage in regular exercise outside their working hours.
David Raichlen, who spearheaded the study at the University of Southern California, commented, “Our modern lifestyle has normalized long hours of sitting — be it at work, during TV viewing or while commuting. This study underscores the severe cognitive repercussions of such a lifestyle.”
While there is ample evidence linking sedentary behaviour to various metabolic disorders such as diabetes, stroke, cardiovascular disease, and even mortality, this study sheds new light on the cognitive risks. Dr Aditya N, a Clinical Psychologist from Bengaluru, explains, “In our clinical practice, we’ve observed that patients with sedentary behaviour, including cognitive inactivity, exhibit higher risks of developing dementia.”
Although a direct link between physical activity and dementia hasn’t been established yet, exercise is known to impact brain areas like the hippocampus that are crucial for memory formation. Beyond dementia, prolonged sitting has been associated with heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and premature death.
Renowned neurologist Dr Sudhir Kumar from Apollo Hospitals in Hyderabad advises that while a sedentary lifestyle involves extended sitting, those seated can still engage in mentally-stimulating activities like solving crosswords or sudoku. He emphasizes that the increased risk isn’t solely about the length of time spent sitting, but the sedentary nature itself.
So, how many hours should we sit in a day? Dr Kumar recommends reducing sitting hours to six to seven hours if possible, and avoiding sitting for more than 30 minutes at a stretch. He suggests breaking the pattern by standing or taking a short walk every 30 minutes. He also recommends standing while taking breaks for tea or coffee.
This brings us to the question of how to choose the best sit stand desk. A good standing desk or an electric height adjustable standing desk can be a great solution to break the monotony of sitting and introduce some physical activity into your workday. The best sit stand desk is one that is ergonomic, comfortable, and suits your workspace. The health benefits of an electric stand up desk are numerous, including improved posture, increased calorie burn, and reduced risk of obesity and other health issues.
Moreover, there are other ways to stay active while working at a desk job. The 20-8-2 rule suggests that every 20 minutes, you should look 20 feet away for 20 seconds to reduce eye strain, and every 30 minutes, stand for 8 minutes and move for 2 minutes. Regular movement, such as brief walks instead of sending emails and taking stretching breaks focusing on the neck, back, and limbs, can also be beneficial. Desk exercises like seated leg lifts and desk push-ups can further contribute to maintaining your health.
While post-work exercise may not fully counteract the risks of dementia, engaging in activities like dancing, jogging, or swimming can boost overall health. As Dr Kumar rightly points out, “Being active is the key.” Therefore, it’s time we reconsider our sedentary lifestyles and make a conscious effort to incorporate more movement into our daily routines.