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Why Too Much Sitting Can Make You Anxious

New research shows ever-more benefits for getting up and moving around.

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by Sarah Mahoney

Well-Being
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Hearing a phrase like “sit down, we need to talk” may make your upper lip sweaty. But turns out it’s the sitting—not the talking—that often creates anxiety. And that’s good news for anyone trying to spend less time worrying.

New research from Australia finds that low-energy activities that keep us seated are linked to higher levels of anxiety. And while sedentary behaviors, including working on a computer, video games or watching TV, have all been tied to plenty of poor health outcomes, this is the first systematic review linking too much sitting with anxiety.

     See also:  Health and Stress: the Midlife Connection

Researchers from Deakin University's Centre for Physical Activity and Nutrition Research analyzed nine separate studies and found that in five of them, increased sedentary behavior was linked to higher risks of anxiety. (They think it could be due to disrupted sleep patterns, social withdrawal or even poor metabolic health.)

Simple behavioral changes that get you moving more can help. And if more activity doesn't ease anxiety immediately, know that becoming an action figure is healthy for your heart. Too much sitting during the day impairs the way HDL, our healthy cholesterol, scavenges up the plaque that clogs arteries. Setting up some new workday rules that decrease time spent sitting may curb worry and crank up cardiovascular health. 

     See also: Using Tech to Tame Anxiety and Stress

Stand up when you’re on the phone. If you’re still tethered, invest in a longer cord. A good headset will improve your posture and make it easier to walk around.

Find the longest route to the restroom. Those extra steps do count.

Try an app like Hotseat or Breaktime. You can program them to give you persistent “stand up and move” nudges throughout the day.

Incorporate more stairs into your daily routine. Skipping the elevator may not be practical if you work on the 20th floor, but you can still get off at 18 and walk two flights

    See also:  Take a Walk on Your Wild Side

Keep comfortable shoes at work. That way, you can pace your office, take walking meetings, and slot in post-lunch walk breaks.

Build a “standing” station at your desk. A true standing desk may not be in your budget. So experiment by placing a box or milk crate on your desk and setting your computer on top.

Photo Credit: John Lund/Getty Images