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Home>Discover VersaTables> Sit & Stand Movement > Sedentary Lifestyles > Sedentary Lifestyles Linked to Depression & Anxiety

Sedentary Lifestyles Linked to Depression & Anxiety

At one time or another, most people will feel depressed or anxious. Events occur within our lives that temporarily alter our emotional well-being.  Ill health of a loved one, relationship struggles, or losing a job can make a person feel lonely, scared or anxious.  Experiencing these feelings after a traumatic event is very normal. However, some people experience these emotions on a daily basis and this is typically a result of an anxiety disorder, depression or both. These conditions can severely impact the sufferer’s ability to function in their normal, everyday home and workplace tasks.

It seems that our country faces an overwhelming epidemic of these mood disorders. And as researchers attempt to explain why, one interesting link stands out: we don’t move as much as we did 60 years ago.

Consider, for a moment, your average day. You likely spend eight to nine hours sitting in an office of some type, two more hours in your car and then you get home and collapse on the couch. If not at work or in your car, you might attend school or meetings where you sit, sit, sit.

The simple fact of the matter is that we sit too much between work and home, and it is taking a toll on our emotional health and well-being.

The Impact Sitting Has On Our Brain & Body

While the full causes of depression are not entirely understood, and may never be, one biological mechanism seems to play an important role in regulating our emotions and moods: serotonin.

Much research suggests that more serotonin is needed in order to effectively combat depression and anxiety. For this reason, most major anti-depressant medications contain doses of serotonin. A sedentary lifestyle does not actively promote the release of such important hormones. However, an active lifestyle does. According to Primer Magazine:

“Our brains are like an internal pharmacy, just stocked full of drugs. We just have to figure out how to unlock it. One of the most important keys to unlocking that internal pharmacy is exercise. When you exercise your body releases endorphins—your body’s natural ‘feel good’ neurotransmitters. Endorphins are ‘endogenous opioid peptides,’ the keyword there being opioid…Opioids are the world’s most powerful painkiller.”

If you shut off your movement, you shut off your supply of endorphins that help release important hormones like serotonin. 

Understanding the Symptoms of Depression and Anxiety

Depression is usually associated with a lethargic or low energy state. However, the depressed person can also carry a lot of anxiety. In fact, according to the Anxiety Disorders Association of America, almost 50% of people diagnosed with depression are diagnosed with an anxiety disorder as well.

Despite the link between the two disorders, depression and anxiety are not the same.  Depression is marked by feelings of hopelessness, anger, and despair. It can cause the sufferers energy level to be low, and cause them to feel overwhelmed by their daily tasks and personal relationships.

  • Symptoms of a depressive episode include:
    • Feeling of hopelessness
    • Persistent sad, anxious mood
    • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
    • Insomnia or oversleeping
    • Loss of pleasure in hobbies and activities, including sex
    • Low appetite or overeating/weight loss or weight gain
    • Decreased energy
    • Thoughts of death or suicide
    • Irritability or restlessness
    • Physical symptoms that are persistent and do not respond to treatment i.e. headaches, digestive problems, or other unexplainable pains.

Depression is categorized in three main types – major depression, dysthymia, and bipolar disorder. Each of these may also occur with any of the anxiety disorders.

Anxiety disorders, on the other hand, lead a person to experience panic or fear in a situation that most people would not feel threatened by. The sufferers often live with a constant worry or a general feeling of anxiousness. In severe cases, this can affect the person’s ability to go about their normal life, have meaningful relationships or be successful at their job.

  • Symptoms of an anxiety disorder include:
    • Feelings of panic, fear or a general uneasiness
    • Repeated flashbacks or traumatic experiences
    • Uncontrollable, obsessive thoughts
    • Nightmares
    • Ritualistic Behaviors
    • Insomnia
    • Palpitations
    • Cold or sweaty hands and/or feet
    • Shortness of breath
    • Dry mouth
    • Nausea
    • Numbness in hands or feet
    • Inability to be calm and still
    • Dizziness
    • Muscle Tension

Panic Disorder, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD), Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Social Anxiety Disorder, and specific phobias are all types of anxiety disorders. There is also a “generalized anxiety disorder.”Further Reading:


Many people who are diagnosed with depression have a history of an anxiety disorder at some earlier point in their life. No evidence exists that one disorder leads to the other, but it is clear that many people suffer from both.

Depression in the Workplace

Next to the costs associated with repetitive injuries, clinical depression has become one of America’s most costly illnesses, costing the US economy more than $51 billion in absenteeism from work and $26 billion in direct treatment costs—according to Mental Health America.

To make matters more disheartening, many depressed employees will not seek treatment because they fear the affect it will have on their job and they are concerned about confidentiality.

Clearly, the emotional and economical costs of depression and anxiety are too great to ignore. How can you combat these conditions in your home and in your workplace?


It is important that you learn to recognize the symptoms of depression and anxiety discussed above. Should you find yourself experiencing such symptoms, you should immediately consult expert help and consider some simple lifestyle adjustments that may help improve your mood.

Solutions At Home

When working to overcome a sedentary lifestyle at home, quite simply, you should just turn off the TV and exercise.

When you hear the term “exercise” you might think about pumping weights or running laps around the gym. However, many different activities boost your physical intensity to help positive endorphins and hormones flow through your body. Certainly playing sports, running or spending time on your treadmill counts as exercise; but so does gardening, strolling around the neighborhood or washing your car. Anything that gets you moving will help improve your mood.

According to the Mayo Clinic, exercise can help you:

  • Gain confidence. Meeting exercise goals or challenges, even small ones, can boost your self-confidence. Getting in shape can also make you feel better about your appearance.
  • Take your mind off worries. Exercise is a distraction that can get you away from the cycle of negative thoughts that feed anxiety and depression.
  • Get more social interaction. Exercise may give you the chance to meet or socialize with others. Just exchanging a friendly smile or greeting as you walk around your neighborhood can help your mood.
  • Cope in a healthy way. Doing something positive to manage anxiety or depression is a healthy coping strategy. Trying to feel better by drinking alcohol, dwelling on how badly you feel, or hoping anxiety or depression will go away on their own can lead to worsening symptoms.

Taking the initiative to implement and dedicate a portion of your leisure time to a regular workout routine is also an investment that will pay big rewards in terms of your overall health and happiness.

If you cannot find time to work out, you should find creative ways to incorporate more movement into your activities. For example, dancing as you vacuum your living room burns far more calories and releases more positive hormones than simply pushing the vacuum back and forth. You can also consider additional tips on ways to convert your sedentary lifestyle.

Solutions At Work

At work you should intentionally look for ways to be more physically active before sitting at your desk all day. Park farther away from your office entrance and take the stairs.

In addition, implement movement in your workflow. Productively changing positions frequently and taking small breaks from sitting is an important ergonomic principle that actually enhances your overall job satisfaction and productivity.

Personally investing, or encouraging your management to invest, in high quality office furniture that allows for sit-stand workflow is also important. This type of office furniture recognizes that work that honors movement and the full range of body motion is better not just for your mental and physcial health, but for your company as well. VersaTables offers several sit-stand workstation options, and is also happy to provide custom furniture bids for your specific needs.

In addition to using ergonomically designed office furniture that promotes movement, you can also work to develop good work habits that include doing short, simple exercises at the desk.

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