A new study has found that low-energy activities that involve sitting are associated with an increased risk of anxiety.
“Anecdotally we are seeing an increase in anxiety symptoms in our modern society, which seems to parallel the increase in sedentary behavior,” said Megan Teychenne, lead researcher and lecturer at Deakin University’s Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition Research (C-PAN) in Australia.
“Thus, we were interested to see whether these two factors were, in fact, linked. Also, since research has shown positive associations between sedentary behavior and depressive symptoms, this was another foundation for further investigating the link between sedentary behavior and anxiety symptoms.”
For their study, C-PAN researchers analyzed the results of nine studies that examined the association between sedentary behavior and anxiety.
The studies varied in what they classified as sedentary behavior from television viewing and 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 and adolescents, while the remaining seven included adults.
It was found in five of the nine studies that an increase in sedentary behavior was associated with an increased risk of anxiety, the researchers reported.
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 percent of high school students who had more than two hours of screen time were more likely to experience anxiety compared to those who had less than two hours, according to the researchers.
The C-PAN researchers suggest the link between sedentary behavior and anxiety could be due to disturbances in sleep patterns, social withdrawal theory, and poor metabolic health.
Social withdrawal theory proposes that prolonged sedentary behavior, such as television viewing, can lead to withdrawal from social relationships, which has been linked to increased anxiety.
The researchers note that more follow-up studies are required to confirm whether anxiety is caused by sedentary behavior.
“It is important that we understand the behavioral factors that may be linked to anxiety in order to be able to develop evidence-based strategies in preventing (and) managing this illness,” Teychenne said.
“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.”
The study was published in the open-access journal BMC Public Health.
Source: Biomed Central