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TV or book? What you do while sitting may affect your dementia risk

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A recently published study of older adults found that those who were more “mentally active” while sitting – including using a computer or reading – had a lower risk of dementia than those who watched TV.

Researchers from the University of Southern California and the University of Arizona looked at data for more than 145,000 adults 60 and older who hadn’t been diagnosed with dementia. Between 2006 and 2010, the participants completed questionnaires that asked about their levels of sedentary behavior.

After an average 12-year follow-up, more than 3,500 of the participants had developed dementia. Findings show that even among the participants who reported being “highly physically active,” time spent watching TV – which involves low levels of muscle activity – was associated with increased risk of dementia. However, being more mentally active while sitting was associated with a reduced risk.

“What we do while sitting matters,” study author David Raichlen, a professor of biological sciences and anthropology at USC, said in a press release. “This knowledge is critical when it comes to designing targeted public health interventions aimed at reducing the risk of neurodegenerative disease from sedentary activities through positive behavior change.”

The study was published online in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

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