Stand up for mental health

Monday June 22, 2015 Written by Published in Health

It’s time  to turn off the computer and the TV, unplug the games console, step away from the couch and stand up for your mental health.

A new study has found that prolonged sitting is linked to increased risk of anxiety in adults and children.

It also found that even if you go for a run after work, if you sit for long periods of the day at your desk, or tend to sit on the couch for long periods after school or work, then you might potentially be at higher risk of anxiety.

An Australian Physical Activity and Nutrition Centre found this when they carried out the first systematic review to examine the relationship between sedentary behaviour and anxiety.

Dr Megan Teychenne from the Deakin University Centre and lead researcher on the study, says that anxiety is a common and growing problem, estimated to affect 27 million people worldwide.

"Anxiety is a debilitating illness, 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,” she says.

Teychenne says anxiety has also been linked to chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer, so they need to identify ways to reduce the risk of this serious illness.

She says an increase in anxiety symptoms in modern society, seemed to parallel the increase in the time spent sitting, and so she was interested to see if the two were in fact linked.

Together with her colleagues she found that only nine studies have investigated the link between sitting time and anxiety risk, with seven focusing only on adults and two on children and adolescents.

In five of the nine studies, an increase in sedentary behaviour, or sitting, was found to be associated with an increased risk of anxiety.

The evidence about screen time (TV and computer use) was less strong, but one study did find that 36 per cent of high school students that had more than two hours of screen time were more likely to experience anxiety compared to those who had less than two hours.

"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,” Teychenne says.

She says while this a relatively untapped area of research and further studies are needed to help provide a clear picture of the link between sitting and the risk of anxiety, there are simple things that can break up sitting time.

"If you work in an office job then stand up for a few minutes every hour and grab a glass of water, walk to the printer, or try a standing desk. Stand on public transport rather than sit and encourage the whole family to get up during ad breaks if you are watching TV.”

So start today, make some simple changes and stand up for the sake of your mental health. 

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