Replacing time spent sitting with these 2 things may improve mental health

In a new study, researchers found that substituting prolonged sitting time with sleep was linked to lower stress, better mood, and lower body mass index (BMI).

Substituting sitting time with light physical activity was linked to improved mood and lower BMI across the next year.

The research was conducted by a team at Iowa State University.

In the study, the team used data collected as part of the Energy Balance Study at the University of South Carolina.

For 10 days, study participants, ranging in age from 21 to 35, wore an armband that tracked their energy expenditure.

In addition to the benefits of sleep and light physical activity, the researchers found moderate to vigorous activity was associated with lower body fat and BMI.

Given the negative health effects of prolonged sedentary time, Meyer says the findings may encourage people to make small changes that are sustainable.

The team says replacing sedentary time with housework or other light activities is something people may be able to do more consistently than going for an hour-long run.

Getting more sleep is another relatively simple change to make.

Instead of staying up late watching TV, going to bed earlier and getting up at a consistent time provides multiple benefits and allows your body to recover.

Sleeping is also unique in that it is time you’re not engaging in other potentially problematic behaviors, such as eating junk food while sitting in front of a screen.

Making these subtle changes were linked to better current mood, but light physical activity also provided benefits for up to a year, the study found.

While the research was conducted prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the team says the results are timely given the growing mental health concerns during this time of physical distancing.

The lead author of the study is Jacob Meyer, an assistant professor of kinesiology at Iowa State University.

The study is published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

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