If you want to lower your risk of getting Alzheimer’s or some other type of dementia, turn off the TV and step away from the internet. Get off your rear end and go do something.
That’s not me talking. That’s science.
A new study of people 60 and older has found that sitting around for more than 10 hours a day may drastically — and quickly— raise your risk of getting dementia.
Seniors who were sedentary for 12 hours a day were 63% more likely to develop dementia within about seven years than those who sat for nine and a quarter hours or less, the researchers found.
And those who loafed for 15 hours a day were a stunning 220% more likely to develop dementia during that short period.
So, really. Get off the sofa.
The findings were based on a massive study of nearly 50,000 people, none of whem had signs of dementia at the start. The study was conducted by researchers at the University of Southern California and the University of Arizona.
“There was a significant nonlinear association between time spent in sedentary behavior and incident dementia,” the researchers reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association. “Among older adults, more time spent in sedentary behaviors was significantly associated with higher incidence of all-cause dementia.”
While there seemed to be little extra benefit in this study to sitting around for less than the average amount of time, which was about nine and a quarter hours a day, the risks rose rapidly above that level, and especially above 10 hours a day.
The researchers admit there is more work to be done to prove causation. They added that there were few people in the study who spent 15 or more hours a day sitting around, so the numbers at those levels involve higher levels of uncertainty.
But the findings fit with those from multiple other studies, which have found that sitting for too long is bad for our health, including our brain health, whereas engaging in more activity is good for it.
Another paper in the British Medical Journal also found that sitting around too much was bad for our cognitive health. And a U.K. study from a year ago found that walking about 10,000 steps a day could cut your risk of dementia by as much as 50%.
Remind me to put in an order for a standing desk at work.
This issue is way more important than most people credit.
During the pandemic, we spent several years talking about little else besides COVID-19. We scrubbed apples with Ajax, hid indoors, wore multiple masks and did all sorts of other things in the hope of minimizing our risk of contracting the virus.
To date the number of U.S. deaths due to COVID totals 1.14 million.
But dementia? It is already killing 6.6 million people in the U.S. — that’s how many people the Alzheimer’s Association says are living with Alzheimer’s today. There is no cure, little in the way of treatment, and no vaccine. And it isn’t going away. Instead, it is getting worse — much worse.
Our lifetime risk of getting dementia may be as high as one in four, according to recent research out of the Netherlands. In the U.S., about a third of seniors get dementia before they die, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
And deaths from dementia are often horrible — especially for the people who care about you, for whom the experience is sheer agony.
So any way to lower the risk has to be good. Even if it means getting off the sofa.