During the Covid-19 lockdown, the vast majority of us were forced to spend more work and leisure time in front of screens.
But according to a new study conducted by researchers at Iowa State University, all of that sitting may have had a significant impact on people's mental health. After analysing survey responses from over 3,000 participants, they reported that people who were meeting the U.S. Physical Activity Guidelines - two and a half to five hours of moderate to vigorous physical activity each week - before the pandemic decreased their physical activity by 32 per cent, on average, shortly after Covid-19-related restrictions went into effect. The same participants reported feeling more depressed, anxious, and lonely.
In a follow-up paper, lead author Jacob Meyer looked to see whether the participants' behaviours and mental health changed over time.
"In the second study, we found that, on average, people saw their mental health improve over the eight-week period," he commented. "People adjusted to life in the pandemic. 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 reduced mental health improvements.
"I think being aware of some of the subtle changes we've made during the pandemic and how they might be beneficial or detrimental is really important as we look to the other side of pandemic life," Meyer continued, emphasising that it is important for people to take breaks throughout the day. "If you're no longer walking down the hall for in-person meetings, you can still incorporate that break from sitting by taking a short walk before and after your Zoom call."