We already know that sitting is bad for pretty much every aspect of your health: It weakens your muscles, impairs blood circulation, and increases your risk of chronic diseases like heart disease, cancer, and obesity. But it turns out that sitting all day at work, then sitting all night at home in front of the TV, are detrimental to your mental health, too.
A new study examines how a sedentary lifestyle can increase your anxiety. Researchers out of Deakin University’s Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition Research in Australia found that low-energy activities and sitting down likely makes your anxiety worse. Working at a computer all day, watching TV, playing video games, or simply crouching over your phone or laptop in bed are all considered low-energy activities that are eating away at your mental acuity.
Megan Teychenne, the lead researcher of the study, notes that modern society has seen a huge surge of anxiety disorders in recent years. In the U.S., anxiety affects some 40 million adults, or 18 percent of the population, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. While this increase in anxiety might result from several factors, such as more frequent use of distracting technology and social media or increased urban sprawl and air pollution, the researchers wanted to investigate the link between anxiety and sedentary living.
“[W]e are seeing an increase in anxiety symptoms in our modern society, which seems to parallel the increase in sedentary behavior,” Teychenne said in a press release. “Thus, we were interested to see whether these two factors were in fact linked.”
The study analyzed nine different studies that had previously examined anxiety and sedentary behavior. Five of the nine studies found that sedentary behavior was associated with a higher risk of anxiety.
One-third of American adults are obese, and the majority of Americans live sedentary lifestyles that fuel obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. The mental health consequences of the obesity epidemic haven't been explored, though plenty of studies have associated lack of physical activity with an increased risk of depression and anxiety. When your day is especially sedentary, make the choice to take a step outside and go for a thirty minute walk. The exercise, and hopefully time spent in nature, will do your body and mind good.
“It is important that we understand the behavioral factors that may be linked to anxiety — in order to be able to develop evidence-based strategies in preventing/managing this illness,” Teychenne said. “Our research showed that evidence is available to suggest a positive association between sitting time and anxiety symptoms, however, the direction of this relationship still needs to be determined through longitudinal and interventional studies.”
Source: Teychenne M, Costigan S, Parker K. The association between sedentary behaviour and risk of anxiety: A Systemtic Review. BMC Public Health, 2015.