12 November 2019
Why zoning out in front of the TV is not good for our health
A new study by Scientists at the Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute and colleagues in Sweden have found extended sitting is associated with poorer mental health.
In a series of studies linking questionnaire data with clinician diagnoses of depression and anxiety, the study tested whether certain types of sedentary behaviour might be worse for mental health than others.
The Baker Institute’s Head of Physical Activity, Professor David Dunstan, said the study showed that sedentary behaviours that are mentally-passive (such as TV-viewing) appear to increase the risk of depression, whereas those involving mental activity (such as reading, office work, and problem solving) may protect against depression onset.
“Thus, in the context of psychological wellbeing, the way we use our brain while sitting appears to be important,” said Professor Dunstan.
“From a public health perspective, reducing passive sedentary behaviour may help otherwise healthy adults to reduce the risk of future depression.”
The findings are published in Exercise and Sport Sciences Review and builds on studies by the Baker Institute which have shown that sedentary behaviour (in essence, too much sitting) significantly increases the risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and premature death.
“The average Australian adult sits for approximately 9 hours per day. These risks may be partly offset by structured exercise, but most people do not achieve the level of exercise needed to lower the risks associated with too much sitting,” said Professor Dunstan.
“Structured exercise should always be encouraged for better physical health. In addition, however, encouraging people with depression to engage in less passive sedentary behaviour is potentially beneficial for treating depressive symptoms, especially in those who find structured exercise difficult during the early stages of treatment.”
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