Sedentary behaviour and brain health in middle-aged and older adults: A systematic review

Carlijn M. Maasakkers, Ralf W. J. Weijs, Claudia Dekkers, Paul A. Gardiner, Romy Ottens, Marcel G. M. Olde Rikkert, René J. F. Melis, Dick H. J. Thijssen, Jurgen A. H. R. Claassen*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articleAcademicpeer-review


Sedentary behaviour may increase the risk of dementia. Studying physiological effects of sedentary behaviour on cerebral health may provide new insights into the nature of this association. Accordingly, we reviewed if and how acute and habitual sedentary behaviour relate to brain health factors in middle-aged and older adults (≥45 years). Four databases were searched. Twenty-nine studies were included, with mainly cross-sectional designs. Nine studies examined neurotrophic factors and six studied functional brain measures, with the majority of these studies finding no associations with sedentary behaviour. The results from studies on sedentary behaviour and cerebrovascular measures were inconclusive. There was a tentative association between habitual sedentary behaviour and structural white matter health. An explanatory pathway for this effect might relate to the immediate vascular effects of sitting, such as elevation of blood pressure. Nevertheless, due to the foremost cross-sectional nature of the available evidence, reverse causality could also be a possible explanation. More prospective studies are needed to understand the potential of sedentary behaviour as a target for brain health.
Original languageEnglish
Article number104802
JournalNeuroscience and Biobehavioral Reviews
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2022
Externally publishedYes

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