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Sitting with stress – sedentary activity linked to anxiety

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You may have heard that “sitting is the new smoking” – several studies have linked long periods of sitting to increased BMI, greater risk of chronic disease, and shorter life expectancy. But the harmful effects of sitting may not stop there: Research out of Australia suggests the longer you sit, the greater your risk of anxiety.

Negative effects of sedentary behaviors

A systematic review published in BMC Public Health looked at nine studies from 2008 to 2014 across seven different countries that included children, adolescents and adults. Each study measured daily sedentary activities such as sitting, watching TV, and using the computer, and measured markers of anxiety through various scales and questionnaires. Overall, there was moderate evidence linking sedentary behaviors to increased risk of anxiety. For example, one study in China found that high school students who spent more than two hours per day in front of a screen were 36% more likely to experience anxiety symptoms. A study from Singapore found that adults who sat for about 10 hours per day were 29% more likely to report psychological distress or emotional disturbance.

Symptoms of anxiety

Anxiety, characterized by excessive worry, affects over 27 million people worldwide. The condition can be debilitating to daily living and can include symptoms such as pounding heart, upset stomach and difficulty breathing. Researchers are not certain how sitting may contribute to this condition, but suspect it may be through poor metabolic health. It could also be the fact that time spent sitting means time not spent doing physical activities, which can be helpful in reducing anxiety.

In a society of offices, cars, computers and televisions, sitting is often hard to avoid. Make it a point to get up and move every hour during the day, and try leisure activities like yoga or group sports.

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