Why you should go for a walk this lunchtime

When it’s cold outside, and you’ve got a pile of work to get through, it can be tempting to hunker down and eat lunch al desko. But sitting all day is not good for your body – or your mind

CREDIT: This is an edited version of an article that originally appeared on Huffington Post 

We already know that sedentary lifestyles can lead to a long list of physical health problems, from back ache, muscle weakness and slow digestion to an increased risk of heart disease and diabetes. But new research, based on teenagers, highlights the negative impact it can have on mental health too.

Spending long periods of time sitting each day is linked to an increased risk of depression, according to the new study led by University College London – but walking could counteract the impact. The study, published in The Lancet Psychiatry, analysed the sitting behaviour of more than 4,000 young people aged 12, 14 and 16, and then looked at instances of depression once they reached 18.

The period of time teens spent sitting per day increased as they aged, rising from an average of seven hours and 10 minutes, at the start of the study, to eight hours and 43 minutes by the end. The researchers found that every additional 60 minutes of sedentary behaviour per day was associated with an increase in depression; those with consistently high amounts of time spent sitting at all three ages had 28.2% higher depression scores by age 18, the researchers said.

However, walking could make a difference. The study found that an additional 60 minutes of light activity, such as walking, each day could significantly lower the risk.

While the study focused on teenagers, its results serve as a reminder to adults of the dangers of sitting all day – particularly as so many of us sit in front of a screen for eight-hour stints.

“We found that it’s not just more intense forms of activity that are good for our mental health, but any degree of physical activity that can reduce the time we spend sitting down is likely to be beneficial,” said the study’s lead author, PhD student Aaron Kandola.

“We should be encouraging people of all ages to move more, and sit less, as it’s good for both our physical and mental health.”

You don’t need to wait for spring to enjoy a lunchtime or post-work stroll, so what are you waiting for? If you’re able to, wrap up warm and get those steps in.

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