According to research published in the June 2015 journal BMC Public Health, lower energy activities that involve sitting down are associated with and increased risk of anxiety. Many studies have shown that sedentary behavior is associated with physical health problems like obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis. But there has been little research regarding the link between sedentary behavior and mental health.
“We are seeing an increase in anxiety symptoms in our modern society, which seems to parallel the increase in sedentary behavior. Thus, we were interested to see whether these two factors were in fact linked” said Megan Teychenne, the lead researcher at Deakin University’s Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition Research. In Australia. (Side note: Australia has a higher rate of obesity than the U.S.) “Also, since research has shown positive associations between sedentary behavior and depressive symptoms, this was another foundation for further investigating the link between sedentary behavior and anxiety symptoms.”
Researchers looked at the results of nine different studies. These studies analyzed television viewing/computer use, sitting while on transport and work-related sitting. Two studies included children and the rest included adults.
Results of the studies:
- Five of the nine studies found that an increase in sedentary behavior was associated with an increased risk of anxiety.
- Four studies found that total sitting time was associated with increased risk of anxiety.
- 36% of high school aged students that had more than two hours of screen time were more likely to experience anxiety compared to those who had less than two hours.
The research team suggests that the link between sitting and anxiety could be due to disturbances in sleep patterns, social withdrawal and/or poor metabolic health. “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.
Sources: BMC Public Health – June 2015 and Natural Practitioner – August 2015
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