There are more nerves sending information to your brain from your body than nerves sending information from your brain to your body. While your brain sends out a lot of signals to make movement happen there is far more input your brain gets from your body when you move. When we don’t move much there is less brain activity which results in atrophy of tissue. This is because our bodies are efficient at making use of the energy it gets. If you don’t use part of your body much, less energy is sent there because less energy is needed. Think muscles, if you don’t strength train, less energy is fed to your muscles to keep them strong so the tissue atrophies. The same happens to nervous tissue, the less you use it, the less energy it needs, and therefore it will atrophy over time. A recent study found that sedentary people had thinner temporal lobes in their brain than people who are more active, indicating that sitting is bad for your brain.
This study the authors examined 35 middle-aged and older adults who had not been diagnosed with dementia. All participants had a high resolution MRI scan performed to measure the medial temporal lobe of their brains. The atrophy in the size of the medial temporal lobe is known to be associated with memory impairment and Alzheimer’s disease. A growing number of studies have shown that physical activity affects regional brain size but this study was looking into if a sedentary lifestyle had an effect on brain size, particularly in the medial temporal lobe.
The authors measured thinner medial temporal lobes in patients who had sedentary lifestyles than those who did not. The authors concluded that sedentary behavior was associated with less thickness in the medial temporal lobe and may be associated with an increased risk for developing dementia. The senior author was quoted saying; “These findings show a ‘brain effect’ of sitting on a critical memory center of the brain. Our hope is that the findings inspire healthy brain habits, at home and work, like taking a 5-minute break to stand up and walk around every 30 to 60 minutes.” This is a first of its kind study looking at brain volume and sedentary lifestyle. It should be looked at, what it is, a preliminary study that shows a possible correlation but not a direct causation. Further study will be necessary to understand this better.
While it is not a definitive study on the topic of sedentary lifestyle, brain volume, and an increased risk for dementia it does indicate that a possible connection does exists. It is not that far off to understand why a correlation is possible because, as I mentioned earlier, there are more nerves sending information into the brain than going out from. When we move less there is less information going to the brain so there is less for the brain to do, or less “work” for certain parts of the brain to do. Basically, atrophy in the body occurs because some system is not needed because it isn’t being used. Sitting is bad for your brain because by sitting portions of your brain are not being used and they start to atrophy. When it comes to dementia and Alzheimer the research has already been done and still being done to show that physical activity is preventative. Exercise, especially high intensity exercise, has shown to prevent and even reverse dementia. The evidence is becoming clear, physical exercise is important for our whole health, not just cardiovascular health. Our program in the office, BStrong4Life, is the perfect program for someone looking to add strength training to their workout routine that is effective, safe, and efficient. Let us know if you want a tour of our program to see it firsthand, we offer office tours for free but by appointment.