Sitting This Long Could Increase Your Dementia Risk

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Senior man watching TV and eating pizza
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Retirees who spend a lot of time watching TV might want to put down the remote and go for a walk: Too much sedentary behavior of any kind could raise your risk of being diagnosed with dementia, according to a recent study.

Adults 60 and older who spend too much time off their feet — more than 10 hours a day — see their risk of dementia increase significantly, according to researchers at the University of California and the University of Arizona.

The findings are troubling because the average American is estimated to spend 9.5 hours per day engaged in sedentary behavior.

In addition, the researchers found that those who take breaks from their sedentary behavior are still at increased risk for dementia as long as they are inactive for at least a total of 10 hours per day.

In a summary of the findings, study author David Raichlen — a professor of biological sciences and anthropology at USC — says that even breaking up long periods of sitting by getting up every 30 minutes, as is commonly advised, does not appear to help lower dementia risk:

“We found that once you take into account the total time spent sedentary, the length of individual sedentary periods didn’t really matter.”

For the study, the researchers looked at data on adults in the United Kingdom who had, as part of previous research, worn movement-measuring wrist devices around the clock for one week and were followed for six years, on average. The USC and University of Arizona researchers then focused on about 50,000 of those adults who were over the age of 60 and did not have dementia at the outset of the previous research.

They found that 414 of the 50,000 participants had been diagnosed with dementia by the end of the six-year follow-up period. After accounting for various factors that could impact brain health, the researchers concluded that large amounts of sedentary behavior were associated with an increased risk of dementia.

The researchers emphasize that those who are sedentary for less than 10 hours each day do not appear to be at increased risk for dementia.

In the summary of the findings, Raichlen says:

“This should provide some reassurance to those of us with office jobs that involve prolonged periods of sitting, as long we limit our total daily time spent sedentary.”

The study findings were published in JAMA, the flagship journal of the American Medical Association.

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