Sitting at a desk all day or spending hours watching television may damage the brain in a way which is known to increase the risk of dementia, a new study suggests.
While researchers have known for some time that sedentary behaviour is bad for physical health, raising the risk of heart disease, diabetes and early death, it is the first study to show it could also influence mental wellbeing.
Scientists at the University of California recruited 35 people aged between 45 and 65 and questioned them about how many hours per day they spent sitting down over the previous week.
Each then underwent a brain scan to specifically look an area known as the medial temporal lobe which is crucial to the formation of new memories.
They found that people who reported more sitting had thinner brain structures. Although the researchers say they cannot say for sure that the sedentary behaviour is responsible for the thinning, they are now launching long term studies to find out if the link is causal.
Thinning of the medial temporal lobe can be an early sign of cognitive decline and dementia in middle-aged and older adults.
The researchers say that getting up and moving about could be a good way to prevent dementia of Alzheimer’s disease.
Around 850,000 people are currently living with dementia in Britain with the figure expected to soar in coming years as the population ages.
The research was published in the journal Plos One.
SOURCE: Sarah Knapton