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Sedentary lifestyle in older adults linked to dementia risk in new study

Just as a stagnant pond’s once-clear waters can become muddled and murky, so too do the minds of those who sit too much or favor stillness, according to a new study.

Prolonged sitting, about 10 hours of minimal movement a day, is associated with a higher likelihood of developing dementia, particularly among older adults, researchers found. According to neurology experts, the study represents the largest body of evidence to link a sedentary lifestyle to dementia risk.

The study, published in JAMA, investigated the link between a sedentary lifestyle and dementia using data from 50,000 people aged 60 or older who wore accelerometers, gauging real-world data instead of relying on self-reporting. Over six years, 414 of them developed dementia.

The increased risk factor was more pronounced in older individuals who spent more than 10 waking hours in a sedentary state – including reclining or expending as little energy as possible. The risks multiply as the sedentary hours pile on.

The sheer quantity of time spent sitting has a greater impact on the risk of dementia than the specific patterns or intervals of sedentary behavior. This means that regular physical activity did not entirely offset the increased risk associated with prolonged sitting. While exercise is beneficial for overall health, it may not fully counteract the negative effects of extended periods of sitting.

Even activities as mundane as watching TV or working at a desk for extended hours appeared to be particularly problematic in terms of dementia risk among older adults.

The study did not investigate the sedentary habits of younger individuals, leaving a degree of uncertainty regarding the potential impact of long-term desk jobs on the risk of dementia in later life. The authors of the study stress that while the research indicates an association between being sedentary and the risk of dementia, it does not indicate that extended periods of sitting is a cause.

The study adds to a growing body of research emphasizing the importance of reducing sedentary time and maintaining an active lifestyle, especially as people age, to potentially lower the risk of dementia. This research is helping many understand that even if someone is physically active, excessive sitting time should still be minimized to support cognitive health in later life.

Without maintaining a balanced lifestyle as one ages, there is an associated risk that the mental acuity and clarity once enjoyed may begin to decline. The silver lining is that reducing sedentary behavior and staying physically active can lower the risk of dementia.

Here are some tips from experts:

  • Discover something active that you like, whether it’s dancing or taking a walk in your neighborhood. Repeat and enjoy.
  • Think about pairing exercise that might feel like a chore with something you enjoy. For example, you can watch your favorite TV show while riding a stationary bike or listen to a podcast while walking.
  • Having a friend or partner to exercise with can boost motivation and help you stay committed. Even if you can’t find a regular exercise partner, checking in with a friend about your fitness goals can be helpful and get you moving in the right direction.
  • Aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity cardio, like jogging or swimming, as part of your non-sedentary time. Besides cardio, incorporate strength training, flexibility, and balance exercises into your routine. Yoga is a good way to do this. These are important not only for brain health but also for preventing injuries.
  • Stay mentally active, too. If you have limited mobility, engage in mentally stimulating activities while being sedentary, such as putting together puzzles, reading, or using a computer.


The Hensel Memory Enhancement Center

The Hensel Memory Enhancement Center provides professional and compassionate care for individuals living with dementia symptoms, offering a supportive environment for both residents and their families.

As dementia progresses, the need for specialized care often arises, and the center’s two-floor facility with private and shared suites, open dining areas, activity spaces, and a secure garden caters to these needs.

The center takes a holistic and personalized approach to dementia care, focusing on individualized engagement to enhance cognitive, physical, spiritual, and psychological well-being. Each resident undergoes an evaluation, leading to the creation of a tailored care plan that addresses their specific cognitive and care needs. The center’s programs encompass fitness, mental stimulation, creative expression, art and music therapy, social interactions, and spiritual fulfillment, all aimed at improving the residents’ quality of life.

If you would like to visit the Hensel Memory Enhancement Center, please contact us at [email protected] or by phone, at (323) 307-4505.