It's not news that sitting all day isn't good for you. Here on Inc.com we've covered studies showing that a sedentary office life can take a terrifying toll on your health (even if you hit the gym regularly, unfortunately), as well as surprising research showing sitting might actually also make you dumber too.

But if all that hasn't already convinced you, yet more new science offers fresh reasons to get off your butt more often--apparently, sitting for long periods can also impact your mental health.

Can sitting make you depressed?

The study, led by University of Tasmania researcher Michelle Kilpatrick and published in Mental Health and Physical Activity, looked at the daily habits of 3,367 government employees, evaluating them for both symptoms of anxiety and depression and their level of physical activity. The team "found that there was a significant relationship between rates of psychological distress and sitting. Employees who reported sitting for longer than 6 hours per day had increased prevalence of moderate symptoms of anxiety and depression relative to those who reported sitting for less than 3 hours a day."

Interestingly, women appeared to be worse affected by inactivity than men. Kilpatrick's team speculate that women may simply have a higher baseline level of mental health stressors. "Since men and women in our sample reported similar estimations of work stress, unmeasured factors such as work-family conflict and incorporation of work and parenting roles could be differentially affecting women," they wrote.

What's the cure?

Like the detrimental physical effects of sitting, the mental health consequences of so much time spent on your butt cannot be relieved just by joining a gym, according to the study. So what can you do if you want to inoculate yourself against the mental toll of spending all day in a chair? This particular bit of research doesn't say, but if what holds true for the body also holds true for the mind, previous studies offer a simple suggestion.

You could invest in a standing desk, of course, but if that's really not your style, there may be an even simpler fix. Earlier research shows that walking as little as five minutes a few times a day can reverse the negative physical consequences of desk-bound life. (For added mental health benefits do those walks outside in nature.)

Do these study results surprise you or just confirm your existing fears about your lifestyle?

Published on: Jan 9, 2015
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