As people adhered to stay-at-home orders or self-isolated during the early months of the COVID-19 outbreak, daily commutes turned into shuffles between the bedroom and the living room.
Clicking Zoom links erased time spent walking to meeting rooms, and Netflix spilled into time otherwise dedicated to the gym.
In a new study from Iowa State University, researchers found people who continued to spend a higher amount of time sitting between April and June 2020 were likely to have higher symptoms of depression.
In the study, the team looked at how physical activity and sedentary behaviors are related to mental health, and how changes to those influence the way people think, feel and perceive the world.
The researchers received survey responses from more than 3,000 study participants from all 50 states and the District of Colombia.
Participants self-reported how much time they spent doing activities, like sitting, looking at screens and exercising, and how those behaviors compared to pre-pandemic times.
Using standard clinical scales, they also indicated changes to their mental well-being (e.g., depression, anxiety, feeling stressed, lonely).
The team found participants who were meeting the U.S. Physical Activity Guidelines (i.e., 2.5-5 hours of moderate to vigorous physical activity each week) before the pandemic decreased their physical activity by 32%, on average.
The same participants reported feeling more depressed, anxious and lonely.
They also found that on average, people saw their mental health improve over time. But for people whose sitting times stayed high, their depressive symptoms, on average, didn’t recover in the same way as everyone else’s.
The participants who continued to spend a large portion of their day sitting experienced blunted mental health improvements.
The team hopes more people will recognize that even a little bit of movement can improve their mood and mental health, and try to find ways to build it into their day.
They recommend people take breaks when sitting for long periods of time.
If you care about depression, please read studies about why is it so hard to withdraw from some depression drugs? and findings of this therapy can effectively treat pain, depression and anxiety.
The study is published in Frontiers in Psychiatry. One author of the study is Jacob Meyer.
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