If you have a sedentary job, here's another reminder to get up out of that chair: A new study says sitting most of the time may increase your anxiety levels.
The study, which was run by Deakin University’s Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition Research (C-PAN) in Australia, was a review of a number of other studies. Scientists often do this kind of meta-analysis to see if there is agreement (or disagreement) across a range of research. The results not only mean that a larger number of subjects can be examined at one time, but can also point researchers in the right direction for further studies.
Dr. Megan Teychenne of Deakin looked at nine studies, including seven on adults and two on kids and teenagers. Five of them found associations between sitting and anxiety: The more time someone sat, the more anxiety they reported. Four studies found total sitting time linked with anxiety levels. There was also a correlation between kids and screen time and higher levels of anxiety. Those who had more than two hours a day of TV or screen time were more anxious.
It's worth noting that these studies, even in aggregate, show a correlation, not causation. It could be, for instance, that nervous people tend to watch more TV, or take jobs where they sit all day. But they results definitely worth paying attention to; strong links between exercise and reduced anxiety (which do show causation) mean that the likelihood of causation being a factor here is high.
“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," Teychenne said in a release.
I use exercise to minimize anxiety (and so does Lena Dunham). It's well-known that when you work out, your brain releases natural endorphins, which elevate your mood both immediately and for some time after. But while that 45 minutes at the gym is great, more movement throughout the day is important too. Better yet, get outside — being in natural spaces can also help anxiety.
“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,” Teychenne said.
How do you get more active without quitting your sedentary job? Small increments of movement can help. I do many of the following:
- Take the stairs up or down several flights and use bathrooms on other floors.
- Hang laundry out to dry instead of using the dryer. (You'll save money on electricity too.)
- Walk around the block twice every afternoon.
- Take a 10-minute walk in the morning, or if you drive to work, park a 10-minute walk away from work, so you'll have to do that walk twice a day.
- Adopt a dog that needs walking.
- Stand while you eat lunch if you sit all day.
- Stand and bend your knees gently while you answer emails.
- Do simple crunches, toe-touches, arm raises, stretches or just march in place while watching your favorite TV show.
- Offer to babysit your friend's kids and play tag with them.
- Pace around the room (or outside) when you're doing a long phone call.
How can you add some more activity into your day?