Sitting too much increases risk of depression, anxiety: Study
The coronavirus has caused many people to sit more and those who spend a higher amount of time sedentary increase their risk of depression and anxiety, a recent study has found.
The study was conducted by researchers at Iowa State University in the US and was published in the journal 'Frontiers in Psychiatry'.
"Sitting is a sneaky behaviour. It's something we do all the time without thinking about it," said Jacob Meyer, assistant professor of kinesiology at Iowa State University and lead author of the study.
Meyer and his team examined how physical activity and sedentary behaviours affect mental health, and how changes to those influence the way people think, feel and perceive the world.
"In March 2020, we knew COVID was going to affect our behaviour and what we could do in lots of weird, funky ways that we couldn't predict," Meyer said.
To get a snapshot of those changes, Meyer and a team of researchers received survey responses from more than 3,000 study participants from across the US.
Participants self-reported how much time they spent doing activities, like sitting, looking at screens and exercising, and how those behaviours compared to pre-pandemic times.
Survey data showed participants who exercised regularly before the pandemic, decreased their physical activity by 32 percent, on average, shortly after COVID-19-related restrictions went into effect.
The same participants reported feeling more depressed, anxious and lonely.
The study showed that, on average, people who adjusted to the pandemic saw their mental health improve over an eight-week period. But for people whose sitting times stayed high, their depressive symptoms, on average, didn't recover.
In previous research, Meyer found that substituting sitting with light physical activity — like walking around during a phone call, or standing while cooking — was associated with short- and long-term psychological benefits.