A new study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) has shed light on the association between sedentary behavior and the risk of dementia amongst older adults. The research, which analysed data from 49,841 adults, found a significant correlation between time spent in sedentary activities and higher incidence rates of dementia.
The JAMA study: Key findings
The study, led by David A. Raichlen, PhD, used a retrospective analysis of data collected prospectively from the UK Biobank. The sample included 49,841 adults aged 60 and up living in England, Scotland, or Wales.
These participants were not diagnosed with dementia at the time they wore the wrist accelerometers. The data collection period ranged from February 2013 to December 2015, with follow-up continuing until September 2021 in England, July 2021 in Scotland, and February 2018 in Wales.
The study employed machine learning algorithms to analyze wrist-worn accelerometer data. Researchers measured metrics such as mean daily sedentary behavior time, mean daily sedentary bout length, maximum daily sedentary bout length, and mean number of daily sedentary bouts to assess the participants’ level of physical inactivity.
The study’s demographic was diverse, with a mean age of 67.19 years and 54.7% of the participants being female. During the study period, 414 people were diagnosed with incident all-cause dementia.
The risk factor
So what do the results show?
Unsurprisingly, the study discovered a significant nonlinear relationship between sedentary behaviour and the occurrence of dementia. The hazard ratios (HRs) for dementia increased significantly with more hours spent inactive, relative to a median of 9.27 hours per day spent in sedentary behaviour.
Spending 10 hours per day sedentary resulted in an HR of 1.08, 12 hours per day resulted in an HR of 1.63, and 15 hours per day resulted in a staggering HR of 3.21. Or put simply:
Hours Spent Sedentary per Day
Risk Increase for Dementia
Slightly Higher Risk
Moderate Risk Increase
Significantly Higher Risk
The study concludes that more time spent in sedentary behaviours among older adults was significantly associated with a higher incidence of all-cause dementia. This discovery is critical because it expands our understanding of lifestyle factors that may contribute to cognitive decline and dementia.
Wearable technology: A potential solution
The new JAMA study has added to the growing body of evidence linking sedentary behavior to dementia. Wearable technology offers a promising avenue for mitigating this risk by encouraging physical activity and providing valuable data.
These devices can track various health metrics and encourage physical activity, reducing sedentary behaviour. Smartwatches and fitness trackers, for example, can send motion reminders, track steps, and even monitor heart rate, providing real-time data that can motivate people to be more active.
Essential reading: Top fitness trackers and health gadgets
Wearable technology offers a data-driven view of one’s lifestyle by collecting data that identifies patterns of sedentary behavior. Healthcare providers can tap into this information to recommend targeted interventions for reducing dementia risk.
Of course, data privacy remains a concern with wearable tech. Users must understand how companies use and store their data. Yet, in this context, the potential benefits may justify the risks, assuming strong data protection measures exist.
The JAMA study calls for more research to determine if excessive sitting directly causes dementia. Utilizing wearable technology in upcoming studies could offer a novel approach to understanding the long-term effects of physical activity on cognitive health.
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