Sitting Too Much Can Raise Anxiety Risk

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Sitting for long periods of time was linked to higher levels of anxiety symptoms.
Sitting for long periods of time was linked to higher levels of anxiety symptoms.

HealthDay News — People who spend much of their day sitting may be more likely to feel anxious, a new review suggests.

The findings, researchers said, do not prove that sitting in front of a TV or computer causes anxiety. For one, it's possible that anxiety-prone people choose to be sedentary.

On the other hand, it's also possible that too much down time can affect mental well-being, said lead researcher Megan Teychenne, PhD, of Deakin University's Center for Physical Activity and Nutrition Research, in Victoria, Australia.

It could be an indirect path: If, for example, people lose sleep because they spend hours online or watching TV, that could contribute to anxiety, Teychenne explained. It could also be more direct — if, for instance, a sedentary activity like video gaming constantly stimulates the nervous system.

The review, published online in the journal BMC Public Health, looked at nine international studies. Some focused on adults, some on children; some assessed people for full-blown clinical anxiety, while others asked people how often they felt "worried, tense or anxious."

Overall, Teychenne's team found, most of the studies found a correlation between people's daily sitting time and their risk of anxiety.

There are big caveats, though. Most of the studies compared one group of people with another, at one point in time, rather than following the same people over time.

So, Teychenne said, it's not clear which came first — the anxiety or the sedentary lifestyle.

In addition, studies that focused on "screen time" — sitting in front of the TV or computer — came to mixed conclusions. Some suggested a link to anxiety, while others did not.

"What we can say is, we know that sitting time in general — which often involves the use of computers, television, smartphones and other electronic devices — was linked to higher levels of anxiety symptoms," Teychenne said. "So, it's important that we keep this in mind during our busy day-to-day lives."

Reference

Teychenne M, et al. The association between sedentary behaviour and risk of anxiety: a systematic review. BMC Public Health. 2015; doi:10.1186/s12889-015-1843-x.

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