It will come as no surprise to you that sitting down for extended periods of time is not good for your health. From weight gain to cardiovascular disease to back problems, the usual issues we think of are bodily. However, it turns out that too much sitting is also bad for your mental health – more specifically, it is linked to an increased risk of anxiety.
This is suggested by the results of a new systematic review1 performed by a team of Australian scientists. The lead author of the study, Dr Megan Teychenne from Deakin University, noticed that our increasingly sedentary society also seems to become increasingly anxious. So she decided to dig through the literature and find whether research has been done to look at a potential link.
Dr Teychenne and two colleagues found only nine studies looking at the amount of sitting time and anxiety risk. Five of them showed that becoming more sedentary was linked to increased risk of anxiety, while the other four studies linked increased anxiety to total amount of time spent sitting down.
“From the results we did find sitting was linked to increased risk of anxiety, so it is important for both adults and children to try and sit less during the day,” sayd Dr Teychenne in a statement. “Even if you go for a run after work, if you sit for long periods of the day at your desk, or tend to sit on the couch for long periods after school or work, then you might potentially be at higher risk of anxiety.”
Even though the sample sizes in all of the studies were fairly large, three of the studies were deemed methodologically weak. Thus the team also concluded that evidence is limited, and further longitudinal studies on the topic would be useful.
Still, current indications suggest that anxiety – which affects 14 per cent of the Australian adult population – is only going to get worse if you spend hours upon hours without getting up from your desk or couch. In fact, it’s making me anxious just writing this, so I’m going to get up and go do some walking now. Both of my fitness tracking devices will be pleased, I’m sure.