Sedentary lifestyle found to increase anxiety and depression risk

Sedentary lifestyle found to increase anxiety and depression riskA sedentary lifestyle – sitting – has been found to contribute to higher rates of anxiety and depression. Although once again we are stressing how bad prolonged sitting and a sedentary lifestyle is for your health, research continues to mount because we as a society continue to sit too much.

When we are sitting we’re not moving. This seems obvious, indeed, but it is this obvious point that is contributing to poor health. Lack of physical activity has been linked with obesity, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes and even certain types of cancer.


In one Australian study researchers uncovered that those who sat for 11 hours a day had a 40 percent increased risk of death within three years when compared to those who sat for less than four hours. Unfortunately, many of us are at an office desk for at least eight hours, so right off the bat even our workday is contributing to our death.


Sedentary lifestyle and anxiety

Sedentary lifestyle and anxietyThe latest findings, which further put blame on prolonged sitting for poor health, reveal that a sedentary lifestyle is linked with anxiety and depression. The findings come from Deakin University’s Center for Physical Activity and Nutrition Research. Researchers found that sitting at a desk, watching TV, looking at your phone and playing video games not only contribute to lack of physical activity, but they can raise anxiety as well.

Researchers have found a huge surge of anxiety disorders within the U.S., affecting nearly 40 million Americans. Although there are many factors that contribute to anxiety – technology, social media, air pollution – the researchers’ aim was to uncover whether or not a sedentary lifestyle, which many of us live, contributes to anxiety as well.

Megan Teychenne, lead researcher, said in a press release, “[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.

The researchers analyzed nine previous studies, which looked at anxiety and a sedentary lifestyle. Five of the studies found anxiety to be higher in those who spent the most time sitting.

Obesity is a large problem in American; nearly one-third of Americans are obese. Worse yet, these individuals spend many hours sitting. Obesity has also been linked to poor mental health, which can further contribute to individuals staying indoors sitting more. To combat this it’s a good idea to take a walk in nature, to not only boost physical activity but improve mental health as well.

Teychenne added, “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. 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.”

Anxiety and depression relationship

Depression can be seen as low-energy while anxiety involves high-energy, for this reason it may be hard to believe the two go hand-in-hand. A person suffering from depression may contain anxiety within them, which leads to panic attacks. Any lack of control experienced, for example, by a panic attack, can additionally contribute to depression, thus creating a cycle.

Depression sparks feelings of hopelessness, despair and anger. A person with depression may lose all motivation to carry on daily tasks. Anxiety, on the other hand, creates fear and panic, and although it may seem quite different from depression, the two conditions are treated the same.

Anxiety and depression can occur together in individuals – one study showed 85 percent of individuals with depression were also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. It can be quite complicating when anxiety and depression occur together as symptoms of both disorders can become severely worse. Additionally, those with both disorders have higher suicide rates as well.

It is important that if a person has one or the other disorder, they are still checked out or treated for both issues.


How sedentary lifestyle causes depression

How sedentary lifestyle causes depressionThe study above observed the link between a sedentary lifestyle and anxiety, and another recent study looked at rates of depression along with a sedentary lifestyle. The research comes from Chinese researchers who analyzed data from hundreds of thousands of participants. Their findings revealed that a sedentary lifestyle increased the risk of depression by 25 percent.

Teychenne, from the sitting and anxiety study, commented on these findings: “Although it was a thorough investigation of a relatively new research area, a number of unanswered questions still remain.” Such questions involve, “whether sedentary behavior increases the risk of depression; or whether it is that those with depression are just more likely to engage in sedentary behaviors such as computer use or television viewing.”

Re-analyzed data from 193,166 participants from a variety of countries across the world was used for the study. Common sedentary behaviors included watching TV and using the computer. These behaviors were associated with a 13 percent and 22 percent higher likelihood of developing depression.

Unfortunately, the researchers did not examine the reasoning behind the links, but many of the studies that they re-analyzed factored in risks of depression such as illness. Furthermore, the researchers cannot rule out that depression itself could be contributing to the sedentary lifestyle.

What is clear is that there is some relationship between a sedentary lifestyle and depression. The take home, one again, is that sitting contributes to poor overall health and the best solution is increasing your physical activity.


How too much sitting affects mental health

Prolonged sitting greatly impacts you cardiovascular, metabolic and mental health. Psychological effects of sitting can be based on what individuals are doing while sitting. This can involve staring mindlessly as a computer screen, or watching mindless TV; both activities remove us from reality and keep us from actually engaging and connecting with the people around us.

Furthermore, much research has linked sitting with psychological distress, depression and overall reduced well-being.

In order to prevent these effects from happening to you, take note of your sitting habits and make a conscious efforts to combat it. If you have a desk job, take standing breaks or walk to co-workers offices to relay messages instead of calling or e-mailing them. If you’re retired, take up odd-end jobs in your home (maybe start that garden you’ve always wanted?).

The problem is obvious: we sit way too much. And the solution is even more obvious: get up! Unfortunately, many of us are stressed out, tired, burnt out from being overworked and use our sitting time as a way to relax. This is not good for our health and, in fact, we’re not relaxing. If you really want to improve your health, feel more relaxed and relieve some stress, go outside and take a stroll instead – you’ll benefit much more!

Related Reading:

Prolonged sitting side effects countered by fidgeting

Negative health effects of prolonged sitting have come to light as of late, and now research has found that fidgeting movements can help combat such side effects. The research comes from the University of Leeds and UCL. They suggest prolonged sitting increases the risk of death in those who only noted they were occasional fidgeters. Continue reading…


Targeting exercise doesn’t reduce effects of prolonged sitting

Although a simple solution to combat the effects of sitting is to exercise, new research suggests targeting exercise won’t reduce the effects of prolonged sitting. The findings come from researchers at the Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience at King’s College London. Continue reading…


Author Bio

Emily Lunardo studied medical sociology at York University with a strong focus on the social determinants of health and mental illness. She is a registered Zumba instructor, as well as a Canfit Pro trainer, who teaches fitness classes on a weekly basis. Emily practices healthy habits in her own life as well as helps others with their own personal health goals. Emily joined Bel Marra Health as a health writer in 2013.