A sedentary lifestyle is said to contribute to 3.2 million deaths every year due to insufficient public exercise areas, the rise of office work, and excessive screen use.1 While the physical effects of a sedentary lifestyle may be obvious, from weight gain to musculoskeletal problems like chronic neck and back pain, there is also a correlation between little physical movement and mental health problems. Find out why sitting for an extended period of time every day can negatively impact your mental health and tips to help you move around more at work and home.
Why Sitting Can Negatively Impact Your Mental Health
According to Mats Hallgren, a researcher at the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, when we sit for a very long time, it can slow blood flow in the body, including blood flow to the brain.2 Sitting also might lead to more inflammation, which is a known contributor to depression, anxiety and fatigue.3 However, the way you sit, or rather what you do while you sit, may also affect your mood. In one of Hallgren’s studies, he found that students who spend more than three hours of sedentary time in mentally active pursuits are less likely to be diagnosed with depression.4
Another study found that sedentary behaviors may also increase the risk for depression by inhibiting direct communication and lowering social interactions, or by reducing the available time to participate in physical activities that help to prevent and treat depression.5
Movement & Mental Health
Most people know the physical benefits of movement, from lowering the risk of cardiovascular disease to strengthening your bones and muscles, but there are a number of mental benefits as well. Research from Harvard Medical School shows that regular aerobic activity can reduce anxiety by making your brain’s fight or flight system less reactive.6 Studies have also shown that exercise can have the same benefit as taking antidepressants.7 Regular exercise may boost mood by increasing BDNF, a brain protein that helps nerve fibers grow.8
Movements need not be vigorous either. Meditative movements like yoga, qi gong, and tai chi have also been shown to improve depressive symptoms and lower anxiety.9
Postures & Standing Sequences to Try
Whether you’re working at home or commuting to an office, there are ways to incorporate movement into your day without compromising your workflow. From postures you can try at your desk to simple standing sequences, here are some ideas for keeping your mental health in check with movement:
Side Stretch While Seated
- Starting with a stretch will help warm up your body and center your mind.
- While seated, extend both arms over your head so that your arms are beside your ears.
- Interlace your fingers with your index fingers pointed upward. Relax and inhale.
- As you exhale, lean to your right while keeping your body lifted and your head aligned with your arms. Be sure to relax your shoulders away from your ears so that your shoulders and neck don’t become stiff.
- Take three long breaths before repeating on the other side.
Seated Core Exercise
There are two ways to do this exercise:
irritability and impulsivity.
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- Sit at the edge of your chair and plant your feet on the ground. Lean back on the backrest and then lift your straightened legs a few inches above the ground to fire up your core.
- Or, sit on the ground and plant your feet on the ground. From there, lean back while lifting your legs in a table top position.
Standing Wide-Armed Backbend
- Stand with your feet hip-width apart with all ten toes facing forward.
- Engage your leg muscles, tuck your tailbone, and hold your belly in for a strong stance.
- Extend your arms out wide with a 90-degree bend in your elbows.
- Lift your chest up and gaze up at the ceiling. Hold for four breaths.
Desk Push Ups
- Position your body to face your desk and lean against it, with your hands slightly wider than your shoulders and your arms straight.
- Lower your body with control until your chest almost reaches your desk, and then slowly return to the starting position.
- Repeat for at least 10 reps for a simple aerobic workout.
- Another classic aerobic exercise, squats can be done anywhere, anytime with no props whatsoever.
- Stand tall, with your office chair (or any chair) directly behind you.
- Keep your feet shoulder-width apart and extend your arms out in front of you.
- Lower with control until your glutes almost touch your chair while making sure your knees do not extend over your toes.
- Return to the starting position and repeat for 10 reps.
Movement is just one facet of a healthy lifestyle. Following a nutritious diet full of fruits and vegetables is also associated with a stable mood.10 Limiting screen time can also help to boost your mood by freeing up your time to pursue non-sedentary activities. Ensuring you’re getting adequate sleep and practicing relaxation techniques regularly improve focus while also lowering your risk for depression and anxiety.
If you find yourself still struggling with your mood despite healthy lifestyle changes, using a non-prescription medication like Brillia can help you feel calmer and more balanced. Used by children and adults to regulate anxiety, stress, and irritability, Brillia is a targeted remedy that uses effective antibody ingredients in lieu of harsh chemicals found in other medications. Brillia’s homeopathic formulation means that the medication does not produce any harmful side effects and it has no contraindications with other drugs or supplements. Brillia’s active ingredient consists of antibodies to the S100B protein, which is a protein known to be out of balance in individuals with anxiety, depression, and other mood disorders.11 Brillia works by attaching to this protein and reducing symptoms of anxiety and irritability at the source without affecting any other systems in the body.
Brillia works best when combined with healthy lifestyle habits, known as the 5 Pillars, that help you manage stress and anxiety, such as healthy nutrition, adequate sleep, controlled screen time, and mindfulness. Learn more about how Brillia works.
Erica Garza is an author and essayist from Los Angeles. She holds an MFA from Columbia University and a certificate in Narrative Therapy. Her writing has appeared in TIME, Health, Glamour, Good Housekeeping, Women's Health, and VICE.