Can Sitting Lead to Depression?

Posted on Aug 21, 2014 in Chronic Disease

It isn’t really uncommon to associate lack of physical activity with a number of physical health problems, such as: obesity, increased risk of cancer, reduced metabolism, high blood pressure, and more.

But research is showing that physical inactivity may also be linked to mental health problems as well – namely, an increased risk of depression.

depressionYour brain needs as much care as (if not more than) the rest of your body

A healthy brain depends on optimal blood flow, high levels of oxygenation, and strong glucose metabolism to actually work properly. When you sit, your metabolism slows down and your blood pressure increases (limiting blood flow). So, it follows that your brain will be less active as well.

And well, it is.

Researchers in Australia wanted to determine if this reduced activity would have an effect on the prevalence of depressive symptoms. What they found is that women who sit for more than seven hours on an average day are 47% more likely to develop depression than women who sit for four hours or less per day.

In more extreme cases, women who incorporate no physical activity into their day have a 99% increased risk of developing depression.

What’s the science behind this?

Because of the reduced activity in your brain, there’s a chance that the proper transfer of neurotransmitters (e.g. serotonin) can be delayed as a result of excessive sitting. This biochemical explanation suggests that perhaps the lack of NT activity is the cause of extreme depressive symptoms.

Basically, your brain won’t have anything to tell it to feel “happy.” As a result, you really won’t feel happy.

Conversely, the endorphins released through physical activity are commonly associated with “feel-good” states that may alleviate the symptoms of depression. The more active you are, the more you experience the positive effects of these endorphins.

Either way, one thing is apparent: increased physical activity has a negative correlation with depressive symptoms. What that translates to is: the more you work out, the better you feel.

Further Research

It wasn’t just the one female study that pointed to the idea that constant sitting can lead to depression.

The work habits of over 3,000 Australian government workers were measured, and the results were similar to those of the previous study.

Those workers who spend more than six hours a day sitting down also tend to score higher in levels of psychological distress. This is in comparison to those who sit for less than three hours in an average work day.

*It also appears that regardless of how active the employees are outside of work, the amount of time spent sitting at work shows consistent results.

The amount of time that you spend sitting in front of your computer or T.V can lead to higher levels of stress that can eventually lead to you feeling depressed. The scary thing is that excessive sitting doesn’t only appear to lead to depression – researchers also found links to increases in anxiety and insomnia as well.

The results lead to conclusions that spending 5 hours a day working in front of a computer is enough to lead to depression. Make sure that you find ways to incorporate exercises into your work day to relieve the effects of inactivity on the brain. A working brain is a healthy brain – don’t take its health for granted.

Sources: written by Michelle Toole