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Have you ever noticed that you feel worse after a long day spent sitting at your desk, lazing around the house, or attending long meetings compared to a day spent up on your feet and active? Personally, I feel terrible when I get to the end of the day and I have hardly moved from my chair or the couch. On the other hand, when I spend a day hiking or gardening, I feel rejuvenated and content at the end of the day.
So is sitting bad for you and for your well-being? Research shows that time spent sitting correlates with the risk for several diseases and mortality. But it isn’t just our physical health that takes a toll when we sit too much. Studies have also found that the more time you engage in sedentary behavior, the more likely you are to have anxiety. So if you want to know how to stop anxiety, start by getting up on your feet regularly throughout the day.
The Association Between Anxiety and Sedentary Behavior
Sedentary behavior is defined as engaging in activities that involve sitting down and expending little energy. They can include watching TV, playing video games, reading a book, sitting at your desk working, or evening sitting around the dinner table.
Researchers recently reviewed nine observational studies on the association between sedentary behavior and the risk for anxiety. They found that 78% of the studies identified at least one positive association between the two factors.
Many studies have found a link between overall time spent sitting and anxiety. Others found more specific associations, such as those between screen time and anxiety risk. One of the studies, for example, found that high school students who had two or more hours of screen time per day were 36% more likely to have anxiety symptoms than students who engaged in screen-based activities less than two hours a day.
How Does Sitting Contribute to Anxiety?
The review study did not find direct evidence that sitting causes anxiety, and the results can’t point to why, exactly, the association exists. But the researchers hypothesize that many factors may link sedentary behavior to anxiety risk.
As mentioned earlier, sedentary behavior can damage our physical health, which can in turn impact our mental health. For example, sitting can increase your risk for diabetes, which is also linked to poor mental health.
Some sedentary behaviors might be particularly harmful to our mental health. Video gaming, for example, can activate the central nervous system and elevate anxiety levels. Screen-based activities also can disrupt sleep, which often leads to anxiety (read more about how light from screens can interfere with sleep here).
If you find yourself sitting for long periods of time regularly, it might be time to change your habits. At work, you may want to try using a standing desk, which can benefit your overall health tremendously. At home, instead of plopping on the couch when you get home to unwind, try taking a leisurely walk around the neighborhood instead. Get active with the whole family by playing outdoor games, going on hikes, or doing other activities together. You physical and mental health will thank you.
Other Healthy Habits to Help With Anxiety
There are a variety of all-natural treatment options for getting rid of anxiety for good. Try reading these blogs to get started:
- 6 Tips to Conquer Stress, Anxiety, and Depression Symptoms
- 2 Passionflower Benefits: Anti-Anxiety and Insomnia Without the Side Effects
- What is Music Therapy? Find Natural Anxiety Relief, Fight Depression, Reduce Blood Pressure, and More With This Alternative Approach
Share Your Experience
What tips do you have to be more active each day? Do you have any other anxiety-relieving tips to share? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
This article was originally published in 2015. It is regularly updated.