Why sitting makes us more anxious

It is true.  Sitting for long periods of the day makes people more anxious.  Sort of a no brainer.  Some people might tie it into simple things like over work, under exercise or stress from work etc etc.  But there’s something much more specific going on that ties into the nervous system regulation and trauma research I’ve been gobbling up.


Recent research has yet again confirmed what we all know to be true.

“With the growing number of people spending long periods of their day on computers, in front of the TV and on their smartphones, it’s important that we determine whether sitting time does, in fact, lead to increased risk of anxiety,” Teychenne said.

The review, published online June 19 in the journal BMC Public Health, looked at nine international studies. Some focused on adults, some on children; some assessed people for full-blown clinical anxiety, while others asked people how often they felt “worried, tense or anxious.”

Overall, Teychenne’s team found, most of the studies found a correlation between people’s daily sitting time and their risk of anxiety.

taken from Health Day

But why?  I want to understand the why so I understand the cause.


It’s because when we sit and feel stress, our bodies mobilize to fight or flee.  But then we don’t move and we sit in the soup stress hormones adrenalin and cortisol which we are physiological meant to burn off during physical effort.  Instead of burning these amazingly helpful survival based hormones off and release the stress from our bodies, we can’t recalibrate.  We can’t ride the wave of stress to come down over the other side back into our rest and digest mode.

When we experience the stress response while sitting we essentially have our foot on the gas pedal and our hand on the emergency brake.  We are constantly unconsciously thwarted our bodies’ natural impulse to move in order to respond to a threat.  And by sitting instead of moving through this primitive response. we don’t reset our bodies.  In severe cases of trauma, when people FREEZE in order to survive an life threatening situation, the impulse to fight or flee is thwarted and our bodies actually move into more of a shut down mode, lowered body temp, lowered heart rate and to varying degrees dissociation.  That’s often why people who sit for long periods of time and deal with anxiety might eventually move into sustained depression or vacillate between anxiety and depression.

Research also emerged this year that regardless of how much we move outside of our desk jobs, sustained periods of sitting have serious detrimental effects on our health.  This sucks for everyone tied to a desk!  I’m not.  I’m one of the lucky few and I’m grateful.  But I know what it’s like to feel anxious and blue just like everyone and I”m in a position to respond in the moment to what my body needs.

So what’s the solution?  We need to give our bodies a chance to complete the stress cycle and burn off stress hormones regularly during the day, particularly on days when stress is higher.  How?

Get off your bum as soon as you have a chance after you experience a spike in stress and move even if for just 5 minutes.  It’s the only way.

Not sure if you’re stressed?  Why not use all the fantastic bio-feedback tools available on your smart phone. Book a consultation with me to start figuring out how to mobilize your body for healing your mind.

There is no other way.  Get out for a 5 minutes walk.  Go into the bathroom stall and jump up and down.  Exert yourself and burn off those stress hormones that once kept us alive in the face of a tiger attack or other physical threat.  We can’t think your way out of anxiety.   Then maybe after you burn off all those stress hormones, that meditation practice you’ve been wanting to start will be easier and sitting still will be a healthier option.

We have to move our way out of anxiety.  I’ve definitely over-simplified the physiology and made this all sound easier said than done I know.  But I’ve only got your attention for a short while before you get back to facebook or your work.  Just wanted to wet your appetite and help you see there’s a way out and into a new way of dealing.

Yours in health.