Research on sedentary lifestyles, prolonged sitting down, finds a link to an increased risk of anxiety:
on 04 February 2016
A sedentary lifestyle can lead to anxiety

Without a doubt anxiety is far more prevalent today than at almost any time in history. Of course one may say, "what about WWII". Well, for the most part that wasn't anxiety, it was fear! Anxiety is more usefully seen as being overly concerned about things that may happen, i.e. it is anticipatory in nature; it's most often about what could happen?

Although the activation of the fear system is involved in both anxiety and fear, in a real fear situation it has a solid basis, in anxiety, most often, it does not! So it is interesting to see there is a link between the ever increasing progression towards a sedentary lifestyle and increasing cases of anxiety. This should, of course, be of major concern to parents because we are the ones teaching, by example, this type of lifestyle! Perhaps the loss of manufacturing and the rise of service as base of commerce has led to more of us sitting for longer than before? The post war consumer boom has also led to many labour saving devices too! And as obvious as it seems to be, there are seemingly no parallels between the awareness of how bad a sedentary lifestyle is and the need to increase physical activity and exercise! So, if we could learn one thing from this piece of research it should be this: If the way you live your life is causing, or promoting, an increase in anxiety; "change the way you live" . . . . .

Low energy activities that involve sitting down are associated with an increased risk of anxiety, according to research published in the open access journal BMC Public Health. These activities, which include watching TV, working at a computer or playing electronic games, are called sedentary behaviour. Further understanding of these behaviours and how they may be linked to anxiety could help in developing strategies to deal with this mental health problem.

Many studies have shown that sedentary behaviour is associated with physical health problems like obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis. However, there has been little research into the link between sedentary behaviour and mental health. This is the first systematic review to examine the relationship between anxiety and sedentary behaviour.

Anxiety is a mental health illness that affects more than 27 million people worldwide. It is a debilitating illness that can result in people worrying excessively and can prevent people carrying out their daily life. It can also result in physical symptoms, which amongst others includes pounding heartbeat, difficulty breathing, tense muscles, and headaches.

Megan Teychenne, lead researcher and lecturer at Deakin University's Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition Research (C-PAN) in Australia, said: "Anecdotally -- we are seeing an increase in anxiety symptoms in our modern society, which seems to parallel the increase in sedentary behaviour. Thus, we were interested to see whether these two factors were in fact linked. Also, since research has shown positive associations between sedentary behaviour and depressive symptoms, this was another foundation for further investigating the link between sedentary behaviour and anxiety symptoms."

C-PAN researchers analyzed the results of nine studies that specifically examined the association between sedentary behaviour and anxiety. The studies varied in what they classified as sedentary behaviour from television viewing/computer use to total sitting time, which included sitting while watching television, sitting while on transport and work-related sitting. Two of the studies included children/adolescents while the remaining seven included adults.

It was found in five of the nine studies that an increase in sedentary behaviour was 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. The evidence about screen time (TV and computer use) was less strong but one study did find that 36% of high school students that had more than 2 hours of screen time were more like to experience anxiety compared to those who had less than 2 hours.

The C-PAN team suggests the link between sedentary behaviour and anxiety could be due to disturbances in sleep patterns, social withdrawal theory and poor metabolic health. Social withdrawal theory proposes that prolonged sedentary behaviour, such as television viewing, can lead to withdrawal from social relationships, which has been linked to increased anxiety. As most of the studies included in this systematic-review were cross-sectional the researchers say more follow-up work studies are required to confirm whether or not anxiety is caused by sedentary behaviour.

Megan Teychenne said: "It is important that we understand the behavioural 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."

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The above post is reprinted from materials provided by BioMed Central. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.