A sedentary lifestyle is the bane of modern times. Research conducted, among others, by experts from the SWPS University shows that the lack of physical activity has a negative impact not only on the health of the person concerned, but also of their relatives.
Spending most of the time in a sitting position (e.g. in front of a TV and computer screen or behind the wheel of a car) is conducive to the occurrence of many different types of health problems related to both the physical and mental condition of a person. Lack of activity increases the risk of obesity, diabetes or cardiovascular diseases. It can also worsen symptoms of depression and anxiety disorders. What’s more, a sedentary lifestyle has many negative consequences not only for the person who leads it, but also for their environment.
How much time does the average Pole spend in a sitting position?
Studies carried out in the years 2007-2016 in a group of adults indicated an increase in the amount of time spent in a sitting position during the day – from 5.7 hours to 6.4 hours. These figures are now estimated to be even higher. One important issue should be noted – most of the analyzes carried out in this area are based on self-report methods. As Maria Siwa, a psychologist from the SWPS University, indicates that the data obtained thanks to them are generally subjective, and thus not very accurate. The differences between the assessments made by respondents and the actual measurement can be as much as about 1.5 hours. This means that the average Pole can spend up to 8 hours in a sitting position per day.
Scientists from the SWPS University asked themselves the question: how does a person’s sedentary lifestyle affect the mental health of their partner, close family members and friends? Is there any connection between them? To this end, together with other experts from around the world, they conducted extensive analyzes that were the aftermath of the Active Dyads program. The aim of this initiative was to promote physical activity, raise awareness of what lack of exercise leads to and support the process of changing harmful habits. The study looked at the relationships within a couple (one person struggled with a chronic condition, and the other was a “supporter” and “helper”). There was usually a romantic relationship between the participants (partner-partner). It also happened that they were connected by family ties (daughter-mother, sister-sister) or friendship.
320 pairs (diads) participated in the study. Individual participants ranged from 18 to 90 years of age. A special questionnaire was used to measure depressive symptoms, and the amount of time spent in a sitting position was counted several times (at the beginning of the experiment, as well as after 8 and 14 months). Accelerometers were used for this purpose (thanks to which objectivity was preserved).
Our research shows that in the case of depression and sedentary behavior, one drives the other. The prolonged sedentary behavior of the supportive dyad partner fueled the depression of the “leading” subject, who was more susceptible to another chronic illness. This, in turn, further increased the sitting behavior of the supportive partner. Most likely, he extended the sitting time because he wanted to accompany the sick person, who also often spent time in this way, we read on the website of the SWPS University.
It should be emphasized that the type of activity performed while sitting also has an impact on the severity of depressive symptoms. Reading books will not make individuals feel worse than watching television programs or playing computer games.
What to do to change your lifestyle from a sedentary to a more active one?
It is worth using the method of small steps and taking short five-minute “breaks from sitting” at the beginning. It is good to get up from the armchair or sofa and walk around the room. Instead of taking the elevator to the second floor, let’s take the stairs. Let’s turn evening TV watching into a short, few-minute walk.
Even 5-minute active breaks are important. Studies show that active breaks make a difference of up to 6 cm in the waist. So it’s a double benefit. It is important both for our health and for the health of our partner – summarizes psychologist Maria Siwa, quoted by the SWPS University.
Source: SWPS University