Hannah Frye


September 25, 2023

Hannah Frye

Assistant Beauty & Health Editor

By Hannah Frye

Assistant Beauty & Health Editor

Hannah Frye is the Assistant Beauty Editor at mindbodygreen. She has a B.S. in journalism and a minor in women’s, gender, and queer studies from California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo. Hannah has written across lifestyle sections including health, wellness, sustainability, personal development, and more.

woman at computer

Image by Marc Tran / Stocksy

September 25, 2023

Even if you can’t quite reach 10,000 steps, getting some movement in daily is essential for overall health. And new research shows it just might help lower your risk of dementia, too. Here’s what the study found on the link between a sedentary lifestyle and cognitive decline, and what it means for your brain longevity. 

Long periods of physical inactivity linked with higher dementia risk

The retrospective study published in JAMA Network pulled data from 49, 841 adults aged 60 years or older without dementia and had them use a step tracker to measure their daily movement beginning in 2013.

After following the group for a little under seven years and analyzing the data, researchers found that adults who spent an average of 10 hours a day in a sedentary position1 (not counting sleeping) had a significantly higher risk of getting dementia. This is a finding of association, so more studies will be needed to confirm if inactivity directly contributes to cognitive decline. Still, it’s a finding worth considering. 

While being sedentary for 10 hours a day sounds like a long time, in reality, it’s not far from the 9.5 hours the average American adult spends sedentary2. An average workday is about eight hours, and many people spend that sitting at a desk. Most people are also sitting during their commute, adding another hour or so. If you end the day by watching television, lying on your bed reading, or scrolling online, that’s another hour. Sitting for meals adds to that as well… you get the point. It all adds up pretty quickly. 

So unfortunately, it’s much easier to clock 10 or more hours of sedentary time than you might think. This means keeping your inactive hours to a minimum will take some intention, effort, and even maybe some schedule changes. 

Ways to decrease sedentary time

Luckily, the researchers note that there was not a significant difference between spacing out sedentary time or not, so that adds flexibility to the takeaway plan. Here are some quick ways to stay active both for your brain and overall well-being. 

  • Wake up 30 minutes earlier for a morning stroll
  • Walk instead of drive to local spots
  • Take half your lunch break to walk
  • Make post-dinner strolls a habit
  • Consider using a standing desk or walking pad
  • Schedule 10-minute walks throughout the day
  • Engage in stretching or yoga before bed or upon rising

It may not be easy at first, but committing to more movement in your daily life will become a habit eventually. If you don’t have the time or ability to keep active throughout the day, schedule in other ways to tend to your brain health if you can, one of which is to create and stick with a morning routine—here’s why

The takeaway

A new study found that adults who averaged 10 hours of sedentary time daily had a higher risk of dementia. While the exact cause of the increased risk still needs to be confirmed, getting more movement in your day is a surefire way to contribute to better overall health. Not sure if you should walk or run for more movement? Read up on the pros and cons of each here