Data for the study was collected from 3,367 state government employees as part of a broader health outreach program. Participants filled out a short, validated psychological assessment for symptoms of anxiety and depression over the last 4 weeks. The researchers also asked participants to complete a scale assessing their current levels of physical activity, in addition to surveys designed to get at potential confounding factors, such as leisure-time physical activity and general satisfaction with the workplace.
Kilpatrick and colleagues found that there was a significant relationship between rates of psychological distress and sitting. Employees who reported sitting for longer than 6 hours per day had increased prevalence of moderate symptoms of anxiety and depression relative to those who reported sitting for less than 3 hours a day.
Another key finding was that hitting the gym after work didn’t protect workers from the effects of sitting. If people sat for most of the work day, even if they were physically active and getting exercise in their off hours, they still showed relatively higher rates of anxiety and depression symptoms than did workers who sat for less than 3 hours a day.
A recent study found that employees who sit at their desks for more than 6 hours a day are more likely to experience moderate symptoms of anxiety and depression, even when those workers are getting the recommended amount of physical exercise outside of working hours: