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Sedentary Lifestyle Effects On Mental Health

Sedentary lifestyle is considered as leading a life with a lack of physical activity. Limited body movement can surely have an impact on physical health. But, surprisingly, it can also have a great impact on mental health. It is important to know the sedentary lifestyle effects on mental health to prevent it from affecting your health and life.

Sedentary Lifestyle Effects On Mental Health

Physical activity can influence your mood and an active lifestyle is advised to fight emotional disturbances. This means that there is a link between physical activity and your mood or mental health.

A 2018 study showed that changes in sedentary behavior predicted changes in mental health in younger healthy individuals. The results concluded that reducing the sedentary time by 60 min can prevent or significantly reduce the negative impact of sedentary life on mental well-being.1

Experts believe that sedentary lifestyle effects on mental health can be difficult to identify but when left undiagnosed, they can cause more severe problems. Some of the common effects on mental health caused due to lack of physical activity include anxiety, depression, mood swings, increased irritability, lack of self-confidence, increased self-doubt, and increased risk of self-harm behaviors.

Depression and Anxiety

Depression is a rising concern and one of the reasons may be an increased sedentary lifestyle, particularly mentally passive behaviors. One of the possible links may be the lack of social interaction that accompanies sedentary activities which can make a person feel lonelier or left out after the interesting activity is over. Several studies have found that being involved in mentally active functions may not be linked with the risk of depression as much as being involved in passive activities.

A 2020 study reported that there was a strong association between sedentary behavior and the risk of depression. It was observed that mentally passive sedentary behaviors like watching television can increase the risk of depression whereas restrictions on such behaviors can help prevent depression.2

During the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a rise in psychological problems, which could be one of the sedentary lifestyle effects on mental health. Studies have reported an increase in mental health problems and psychological distress in people across the world. These problems have mainly included anxiety, depression, stress, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Considering this several studies have tried to find the sedentary behavior effects on mental health.

A recent 2022 study reported that regular participation in physical activity was associated with lower levels of anxiety, depression, and stress. This positive influence of physical activity on mental health can help in improving mental well-being and taking the necessary preventive measures.3


Dementia is a complex neurological disorder that has a variety of causes and is also associated with other health problems. Doctors usually advise regular physical activity to improve physical and cognitive functions in people with dementia. Similarly, it is believed that lack of physical activity can have an impact on the mental and cognitive function of a person or maybe the aging population.

A study concluded that sedentary behavior was significantly linked with an increased risk of dementia. As compared to individuals who did not lead a sedentary lifestyle, people who practiced sedentary behaviors had a 30% greater risk of experiencing dementia.4

Sedentary Lifestyle Effects On Mental Health Due To Exercise Withdrawal

While it is true that being physically active helps to stay physically and mentally healthy, it is also found that cessation of physical activity can result in mental health problems. Many people who suffer from chronic ailments, injuries, or conditions that affect their physical activity can be at greater risk of mental health problems.

In a 2017 study, an experimentally controlled exercise withdrawal showed adverse consequences on mental health. They concluded that this could be a reason behind the onset of mental health problems in people with acute or chronic medical conditions that result in reduced physical activity.5

Sedentary Lifestyle Effects on Mental Health in Children and Adolescents

While a sedentary lifestyle is a concern in people of all ages, young adults are particularly moving towards it. With the advancement in technology and modern lifestyle, sedentary behaviors have silently crept into the lives of adolescents and adults. Experts suggest that the time spent doing sedentary activities not only raises their risk of obesity but can also increase sedentary lifestyle effects on mental health.

A 2016 study concluded that there is strong evidence between the time spent using screens for leisure activities is associated with increased symptoms of depressive states and psychological distress in adolescents. These days the options of using various gadgets that increase sedentary behaviors and the ability of adolescents to use these at an early age can have a greater impact on their mental health.6

In another study conducted in 2016, the relationship between physical activity and a range of mental health problems in children and adolescents was studied. The study analyzed the data on the level of physical activity or sedentary behavior and the presence of at least one psychological concern like anxiety, depression, stress, or negative effects or psychological well-being like self-esteem, self-concept, self-image, positive effect, optimism, happiness, and satisfaction. A significant association was found between a greater amount of sedentary behavior and increased psychological concerns like depression and lowered psychological well-being like satisfaction and happiness in life. Similarly, a significant association was found between increased physical activity with greater psychological well-being and lower levels of psychological ill-being like depression, stress, or psychological distress.7

Thus, it is clear that sedentary lifestyle effects mental health and can affect your life in various ways. Getting involved in some kind of physical activity can thus be healthful not only for your physical health but also for your mental health and psychological well-being. Mild to moderate exercises, staying active throughout the day, taking regular walks, or doing household chores can be some of the simple ways to stay active. Healthy people can go for walks, treks, or participate in sports if their health permits. Preventing a sedentary lifestyle and protecting your mental and physical health are much needed to live a healthy life.


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Team PainAssist
Team PainAssist
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Team PainAssist, Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:November 24, 2022

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