How Too Much Sitting and Inactivity Impacts Mental Health 

How Too Much Sitting and Inactivity Impacts Mental Health 

The relationship between sitting too much and poor mental health can largely be attributed to the thing you’re not doing when you spend all that time seated, which is taking part in physical activity.   

Prolonged periods of sedentary behavior, defined as any activity in a seated or reclined posture, can seriously damage the back and spine and increase blood pressure.  

Symptoms of anxiety and depression have long been linked to sedentary lifestyles. All that sitting can affect your mental state, too, as some studies suggest that reducing sedentary behavior may reduce glycemic variability and protect against cognitive decline 

Simply put, the more time you spend sitting the less time you are active. Researchers have found that 30 minutes of exercise per day, for three to five days a week, can significantly improve depression or anxiety symptoms. But those goals became a little less attainable when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States in March 2020.  

How sitting’s effect on mental health was magnified by the pandemic

Recent studies have further uncovered the negative mental impact too much sitting can have on individuals. The pandemic directly led to a lot more working from home, TV watching and video game playing as lockdown restrictions kept us indoors, feeling isolated, lonely, and uncertain about the future. 

The U.S Physical Activity Guidelines recommend that adults get between 2.5 and 5 hours a week of moderate to intense aerobic activity. A 2020 study encompassing 3,000 participants revealed that high sitting time during this period was associated with a blunted recovery from elevated depressive symptoms and is of public health concern 

With high rates of stress, anxiety, and depressive symptoms during this pandemic, modifiable factors associated with better mental health could be promising intervention targets. 

Move more!

The recurring theme here is that physical activity, even in moderate amounts, can negate some of the damaging mental effects brought on by all that time spent glued to a chair.  

Besides exercise, there are other ways to break up sitting stretches with bursts of activities. While working or hanging out at home, keep these tips in the back of your mind:  

  • Set an alarm on your phone to stand up every 30 to 45 minutes.  
  • Incorporate a few spurts of squats or jumping jacks into your day.  
  • While working from home, take 5-minute breaks here and there to tidy up the kitchen.  
  • Walk around when you are on a phone call.   
  • When folding laundry, take short trips through the house to put it all away instead of doing it all at once.  
  • Replace a half hour a day you would otherwise spend watching TV by playing a podcast or audio book in your headphones and walking around your neighborhood.  
  • Consider buying a standing desk.  

SilverSneakers®

Seniors looking to increase their activity level in 2022 should consider enrolling in SilverSneakers. A health and fitness program targeting adults age 65 and older, SilverSneakers offers a plethora of perks, including:  

  • Access to online resources, including workout videos, on-demand fitness classes, seminars and nutrition and fitness tips. 
  • Health and well-being educational classes.  
  • Fitness classes specifically designed for older adults of all fitness levels, including instructor-led cardio workouts, strength training, and yoga.  
  • Promotion of a supportive community of fellow participants, both virtually and in person.  
  • Unlimited use of thousands of participating fitness centers, so access is available even while traveling.   

SilverSneakers is an extra benefit included in all 2022 Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan Medicare Advantage plans and is available at no additional cost. A gym membership is not required to be a member, nor is there an age requirement.  

Interested in signing up? Click here for an instant eligibility check. If eligible, you can acquire your member ID by clicking here 

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Photo credit: Getty Images

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