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Study Links Excess Sitting to Increased Anxiety

You might not want to sit down for this. Past studies have shown that people who sit too much are at increased risk for serious health problems including diabetes, heart disease and certain types of cancer. And now, new research shows that excess sitting is also linked to anxiety and worsened mental health.

Researchers from the Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition Research at Deakin University in Australia examined data from nine different studies that analyzed the link between anxiety and a sedentary lifestyle. Five of those nine studies indicated that inactivity was in fact associated with higher levels of anxiety.

Anxiety disorders have grown considerably in the United States in recent years, affecting nearly 18 percent of the population today, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. While a variety of factors could be responsible for this increase, researchers see evidence that a sedentary lifestyle could play a role. Lead study author, Megan Teychenne, explains, “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: Medical Daily).

As our society becomes increasingly geared towards a sedentary lifestyle with desk jobs, long commutes and hours spent sitting in front of the television, laptop or smartphone, it is more crucial now than ever that we find ways to remain active throughout the day. Physical activity benefits everyone, regardless of age, gender, ethnicity and fitness level. Research has shown that regular exercise reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes and osteoporosis, while improving muscle tone, mental health and improving overall quality of life. Some studies have even shown that staying physically active improves some gastrointestinal problems, such as reducing the risk of colon cancer, gastrointestinal bleeding and inflammatory bowel disease (Source: NCBI).

Finding time for exercise can be difficult, but don’t be discouraged if you can’t fit 30 or 60 minutes into your busy schedule. Here are some suggestions to help you work in short bursts of physical activity throughout your day:

  • Do squats, jumping jacks or lunges before hopping in the shower each morning.
  • Take a 10 minute walk before each meal.
  • Take a 5 minute break from your desk each hour and climb the stairs in your office building.
  • Go for a jog or brisk walk around the parking lot during your lunch break.
  • When watching television, do sit-ups, push-ups or jog in place during the commercial breaks.