For many of us, sitting is an integral part of our day. We sit while we drive to work and then spend the day sitting at our desks. Maybe you work remotely and find yourself sitting in different areas of your home. And if you tend to stay on your feet more during the day, a nice relaxing time on the couch after is all you crave. Just be careful you’re not doing too much sitting, since scientists say that could lead to feeling more depressed and anxious.
It’s hard to think about sitting this way, but it makes sense given it’s an activity that requires zero movement even if you’re busy while doing it. So while we might feel tired at the end of the day, our body stayed still for most of it. A new study out of Iowa State University says this practice isn’t great for our mental health.
“Sitting is a sneaky behavior,” said Jacob Meyer, the lead author of the study. “It’s something we do all the time without thinking about it.”
The pandemic could be the cause.
For the majority of people around the world, the Covid-19 pandemic meant they spent a lot more time sitting. That’s when researchers decided to collect data and see how this sudden change into more of a sedentary lifestyle affected the moods of participants. The study followed more than 3,000 people who filled out surveys cataloging their activities throughout the day.
Not surprisingly, those who kept an active lifestyle before the pandemic reported a 32 percent decrease in those activities. They reported feeling more depressed and anxious, but this is expected due to the emotional toll the stay-at-home period took on a lot of people. However, these people’s moods trended upwards as the pandemic went on and they adjusted their lifestyles.
Yet the people who didn’t adjust, and tended to keep sitting more throughout the day, experienced less mental health improvements. “People adjusted to life in the pandemic. But for people whose sitting times stayed high, their depressive symptoms, on average, didn’t recover in the same way as everyone else’s,” Meyer said.
Does sitting actually cause depression?
The author cautions that sitting more might not have a direct link to depression. It could be that those already feeling depressed had less energy to get up and move or that sitting truly lead to more depression. Either way, the study makes it clear that we need to look out for the mood changes the pandemic brought on.
“I think being aware of some of the subtle changes we’ve made during the pandemic and how they might be beneficial or detrimental is really important as we look to the other side of pandemic life,” he said.
If you’ve found yourself feeling more down since the pandemic started, and are realizing you spend a lot of time sitting, it might be worth finding activities that keep you off your seat. If you want a calming exercise, this woman turned to yoga when she started feeling depressed. Taking up a more active lifestyle could be a cause for depression, and finding ways out of it could improve your mood!