NYT: Standing Up at Your Desk Could Make You Smarter

Psychiatrist Richard Friedman writes:

We’ve known for a while that sitting for long stretches of every day has myriad health consequences, like a higher risk of heart disease and diabetes, that culminate in a higher mortality rate. But now a new study has found that sitting is also bad for your brain. And it might be the case that lots of exercise is not enough to save you if you’re a couch potato the rest of the time.

A study published last week, conducted by Dr. Prabha Siddarth at the University of California at Los Angeles, showed that sedentary behavior is associated with reduced thickness of the medial temporal lobe, which contains the hippocampus, a brain region that is critical to learning and memory…

They found that the thickness of their medial temporal lobe was inversely correlated with how sedentary they were; the subjects who reported sitting for longer periods had the thinnest medial temporal lobes.

The implication is that the more time you spend in a chair the worse it is for your brain health, resulting in possible impairment in learning and memory.

What’s also intriguing is that this study did not find a significant association between the level of physical activity and thickness of this brain region, suggesting that exercise, even strenuous exercise, may not be enough to protect you from the harmful effects of sitting.

But what is it about walking — besides increased blood flow to the brain — that might facilitate thinking? Perhaps it’s the fact that you are constantly bombarded by new stimuli and inputs as you move about, which helps derail linear thinking and encourages a more associative, unfocused thought process…

It’s also yet another good argument for getting rid of sitting desks in favor of standing desks for most people. For example, one study assigned a group of 34 high school freshman to a standing desk for 27 weeks. The researchers found significant improvement in executive function and working memory by the end of the study.

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (Alexander90210.com).
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