In a new study, researchers assessed the impact of sitting time and physical activity on mental health during the pandemic.
They found that the increase in time spent sitting down had an adverse effect on mental health and even outweighed the benefits of regular exercise.
Being allowed an hour of outdoor exercise on a daily basis was a key part of the UK government’s strategy in the first national lockdown that began in March 2020.
However, the study found that a great proportion of people were spending more than eight hours a day sitting, due to working at home or being at a loose end while on furlough, were experiencing detrimental effects to their mental health.
Even people who were being active, with around 150 minutes per week of moderate or vigorous physical activity, reported detrimental effects to their mental health.
Even more exercise was required to counterbalance this more sedentary lifestyle.
In the study, the team examined nearly 300 active people. They were sitting for long periods with over 50% sitting for more than eight hours a day during the pandemic.
The team found that sitting time, together with some demographics and pre-existing health conditions, were the main variables to negatively influence mental health and wellbeing.
Other studies have shown that if people sit for longer than eight hours, in order to compensate for the negative effect of sedentary behavior on physical health outcomes, they need to exercise for longer.
Around 60 minutes is ideal, but this is longer than the 30 minutes that is generally recommended as a minimum for daily exercise.
The findings suggest that reducing sitting time has a positive effect on mental health.
Researchers recommend that together with an increase in physical activity, public health should encourage the reduction of sitting time for mental health benefits.
For individuals, just going for a walk especially in green areas is really important, any type of moderate activity does have benefits.
In addition, leisure and gardening are activities that help both physically and mentally.
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The study is published in Sport Sciences for Health. One author of the study is Dr. Liane Azevedo.
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