Tue. Apr 16th, 2024


Long hours of sitting can put you at an increased risk of dementia compared to those who sit less, says a new study published in the peer-reviewed journal JAMA. While this has become a norm in modern lifestyle, this can severely impact brain health, as per experts. So far, sedentary lifestyle has been associated with increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and even death, however this kind of behaviour can also cause cognitive decline, mood disorders, sleep disturbances and increased stress among other mental health issues. (Also read: Tips to maintain your brain health post retirement)

If your job entails long hours of sitting, one must ensure to keep the brain active and stimulated by playing crosswords(Pixabay)

If your job entails long hours of sitting, one must ensure to keep the brain active and stimulated by playing crosswords and other such activities. It is also advised to take a 2-minute break every 30 minutes or maybe work on a standing desk that’s becoming popular nowadays among professionals.

How sedentary lifestyle can affect brain?

Dr Kunal Bahrani, Director-Neurology, Fortis Escorts Hospital, Faridabad explains that a sedentary lifestyle, which involves prolonged periods of sitting and little physical activity, can have several negative effects on the brain.

Here are some of the ways in which a sedentary lifestyle can impact brain health:

1. Cognitive decline

Studies have shown that people who lead sedentary lives are at a higher risk of cognitive decline and conditions like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Regular physical activity has been linked to improved memory, attention, and cognitive function.

2. Mood

Physical activity is known to release endorphins, which are natural mood lifters. When you are sitting all the time, the flow of these hormones is restricted, and one ends up feeling low.

3. Mental health

A sedentary lifestyle can increase the risk of depression, anxiety, and other mood disorders. Additionally, being inactive can lead to stress and lower overall mental well-being.

4. Reduced blood flow

Physical activity increases blood flow throughout the body, including the brain. When you are sedentary, blood flow to the brain can be compromised, which may lead to reduced oxygen and nutrient delivery to brain cells. This can affect cognitive function and overall brain health.

5. Reduced brain plasticity

Physical activity promotes neuroplasticity, which is the brain’s ability to adapt and reorganize itself. This is crucial for learning, memory, and skill development. A sedentary lifestyle can hinder neuroplasticity and make it more difficult for the brain to adapt to new challenges.

6. Obesity and metabolic disorders

Sedentary living is often associated with weight gain and an increased risk of obesity, which can lead to various metabolic disorders like type 2 diabetes. These conditions can have a negative impact on brain health, including an increased risk of cognitive impairment.

7. Sleep disturbances

Lack of physical activity can disrupt sleep patterns. Poor sleep can impair cognitive function, memory consolidation, and emotional regulation, leading to various cognitive and mood issues.

8. Increased stress

Sedentary lifestyles can contribute to chronic stress, which has been linked to structural and functional changes in the brain, particularly in regions associated with memory and emotion regulation.

9. Decreased brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF)

BDNF is a protein that supports the growth, function, and survival of brain cells. Physical activity increases BDNF levels, while a sedentary lifestyle can lead to reduced BDNF production, potentially impacting brain health.

10. Social isolation

Sedentary behaviour often leads to isolation and reduced social interaction. Social engagement is important for brain health as it stimulates cognitive function and emotional well-being.

How to protect brain from negative effects of sedentary lifestyle

To mitigate the negative effects of a sedentary lifestyle on the brain, it is essential to incorporate regular physical activity into your routine. Even small amounts of exercise, such as walking, can have a positive impact on brain health.

Reducing the risk to brain health involves adopting a holistic approach that incorporates various lifestyle changes and practices, says Dr Bahrani.

Here are lifestyle changes you should consider:

1. Stay physically active: Regular physical exercise is one of the most effective ways to support brain health. Aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity per week, as recommended by health guidelines.

2. Eat a brain-healthy diet: Consume a balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish like salmon and walnuts, are particularly beneficial for brain health. Minimize processed foods, sugar, and saturated fats.

3. Manage stress: Chronic stress can negatively impact brain health. Practice stress management techniques such as mindfulness meditation, deep breathing exercises, yoga, and progressive muscle relaxation to reduce stress levels.

4. Get adequate sleep: Prioritize quality sleep, aiming for 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night. Establish a regular sleep schedule and create a comfortable sleep environment to improve sleep quality.

5. Limit alcohol and avoid substance abuse: Consume alcohol in moderation, if at all, and avoid illicit drug use. Excessive alcohol and drug abuse can have detrimental effects on brain health.

6. Protect your head: Take precautions to prevent head injuries. Wear helmets when engaging in activities that carry a risk of head trauma, such as cycling or playing contact sports.

7. Avoid smoking and tobacco use: Quit smoking and avoid exposure to second-hand smoke. Smoking and tobacco products can harm blood vessels and brain function.

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