All sit and no play makes Jack a dull boy. Experts have concluded that too much idle time spent sitting down can lead to anxiety.

According to a study from Deakin University's Center for Physical Activity and Nutrition Research in Australia, anxiety is a mental illness affecting more than 27 million people.

Fifteen percent of adults and 15 percent of 16 to 24-year-olds in Australia are affected by anxiety. The illness is characterized by excessive and persistent worry, which can inhibit one's ability to carry out activities of daily living.

A pounding heart, difficulty in breathing, an upset stomach, tension in the muscles, sweating and a faint feeling are manifestations of anxiety. It can result in increased risk for cardiovascular disease and cancer.

Experts at Deakin University published their findings in BMC Public Health, gathering data from previous studies and finding the relationship between too much sitting time or sedentary behavior and anxiety.

The study mentions different aspects of sedentary behavior, such as sitting for a long period of time when working or traveling. Sitting time is also spent when using the computer, playing video games and couching in front of the tube. Previous studies enumerate several diseases caused by anxiety, namely heart ailments, weight issues, osteoporosis and diabetes, but very little is known about the health effects of a sedentary lifestyle in relation to anxiety.

From 1990 to 2014, studies have been conducted to assess certain sedentary behaviors and anxiety levels. The researchers at Deakin further assessed nine studies that varied in sample size, ranging from around 200 to over 13,000 participants. Of the nine studies, two consisted of a population of children and adolescents, while the remaining five assessed adults. The risk of having a clinical anxiety disorder, or the symptoms of it, were highlighted in the findings.

Five studies revealed that the more sedentary one's lifestyle is, the higher the risk of anxiety. Breaking down the specifics, the researchers found that the risk varies depending on how sedentary the behavior is: what the participants do while sitting.

People who spend more time sitting while traveling were more exposed to a higher risk of anxiety. On the other hand, those who spend more time sitting during work or leisure were not exposed to this risk.

"Anecdotally, we are seeing an increase in anxiety symptoms in our modern society, which seems to parallel the increase in sedentary behavior. Thus, we were interested to see whether these two factors were in fact linked," said Deakin researcher and lecturer Megan Teychenne.

Photo: Irina Slutsky | Flickr

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