With age comes the temptation to engage in watching hours of TV and other passive activities. But a new study suggests that such passivity might put our brains at risk.
Those who are 60 or older and engage in long periods of sitting passively may be at increased risk of developing dementia, according to researchers at the University of Southern California and the University of Arizona.
However, the risk diminishes for those who sit while actively engaging the mind, such as when using the computer.
The findings were published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.
In a press release summarizing the study findings, study author David Raichlen, professor of biological sciences and anthropology at USC, says:
“We know from past studies that watching TV involves low levels of muscle activity and energy use compared with using a computer or reading. And while research has shown that uninterrupted sitting for long periods is linked with reduced blood flow in the brain, the relatively greater intellectual stimulation that occurs during computer use may counteract the negative effects of sitting.”
The researchers analyzed self-reported data from the U.K. Biobank, a large biomedical database of participants throughout the United Kingdom. Specifically, they looked at data on more than 145,000 participants who were age 60 or older and were followed for about 12 years, on average.
The researchers found that spending time watching TV is associated with an increased risk of dementia even among people who are physically active. By contrast, spending time using a computer was associated with a reduced risk of developing dementia.
In other words, it isn’t sitting for long periods that puts your brain at risk, but rather what you do — or don’t do — as you sit.
For more news about dementia, check out “Eating This Common Type of Food Is Linked to Higher Dementia Risk.”