Anxiety is common and growing problem, estimated to affect 27 million people worldwide. Here in Australia, as many as 14 per cent of adults are afflicted with the disease, which is more serious than many of us think. In fact, anxiety has been linked to chronic conditions such as heart disease and cancer.
And while many studies have been done that attempt to identify the causes of anxiety, a systematic Australian review is the first to examine the relationship between sedentary behaviour and anxiety.
Dr Megan Teychenne from Deakin University’s Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition Research (C-PAN) said an increase in anxiety symptoms in society seemed to parallel the increase in the time we now spend sitting, so she was interested to see if the two were in fact linked.
The lead researcher and her colleagues found only nine studies that have investigated the link between sitting time and anxiety risk; in five of the nine studies, an increase in sedentary behaviour, or sitting, was found to be associated with an increased risk of anxiety. In four of the studies it was found that total sitting time was associated with increased risk of anxiety.
“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”.
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Dr Teychenne added that even if you had bursts of activity, such as routine exercise and then spend most of the rest of the day sitting, you might potentially be at higher risk of anxiety.
“Anxiety is a debilitating illness affecting 14 per cent of Australian adults, but it’s not just the everyday symptoms such as a racing heart and headaches that we get from our busy lives and financial pressures that we need to worry about. Due to the link to chronic disease, we need to identify ways to reduce the risk of this serious illness,” she said.
If you find you spend lots of time sitting, either at a desk or on the couch, or a chair, remind yourself to get up frequently and move around. You don’t necessarily need to sit down to watch TV or read a book, after all.
And remember that standing still for any great length of time isn’t a great idea either. Some gentle stretches, bouncing from one foot to the other, rolling your ankles or doing shallow squats will boost circulation and, it seems, protect you from mental health problems.
“Start today, make some simple changes and stand up for the sake of your mental health,” said Dr Teychenne .
Do you find yourself sitting too much? How could you break this habit?