Is “Being a couch potato bad for your mental health,” the Mail Online reports. However, the evidence gathered by a new review is not as clear-cut as the headline would lead you to believe.
The review summarised the results of nine studies on the link between anxiety symptoms and sedentary behaviour, such as using a computer or watching TV.
Overall, five of the nine studies found a positive link – that as time spent sitting went up, so did the risk of anxiety symptoms.
However, the results of a review are only as reliable as the studies it includes, and in this case they weren’t very good. The majority of studies looked at sitting and anxiety at one time.
This can’t prove cause and effect, as we are faced with the classic “chicken and egg” dilemma: does sedentary behaviour cause anxiety symptoms, or are anxious people likely to spend more time sitting?
Importantly, we don’t know whether the studies took account of other factors that could be influencing the results, and most looked only at anxiety symptoms, not a diagnosis of anxiety.
Overall, this review doesn’t provide conclusive proof of a definitive link. The occasional boxset binge is probably not going to trigger general anxiety disorder by itself, but it is important to balance this out with regular exercise. Aside from the physical health benefits of exercise, it can also often reduce feelings of depression and anxiety.