Study: Replacing sitting with sleep or light activity may help boost mood

Newly published research reveals sleep has its benefits over remaining sedentary.

The findings, published by the American Journal of Preventive Medicine, reveal that replacing long periods spent sitting with sleeping is linked to reduced stress levels, improved mood and lower body mass index (BMI). Researchers also discovered replacing sitting with light physical activity was also linked to lower BMI and improved mood over the next year.

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According to lead study author Jacob Meyer, light activity can include standing while making dinner or walking around your home office while on the phone.

“People may not even think about some of these activities as physical activity,” said the assistant professor of kinesiology at Iowa State University. “Light activity is much lower intensity than going to the gym or walking to work, but taking these steps to break up long periods of sitting may have an impact.”

Using data collected as part of the Energy Balance Study at the University of South Carolina, researchers were allowed to objectively measure sleep, physical activity and sedentary time instead of relying on self-reports, Meyer said.

In the study, participants ranging in age from 21 to 35 spent 10 days wearing an armband that tracked their energy expenditure.

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“It may be easier for people to change their behavior if they feel it’s doable and doesn’t require a major change,” said Meyer, director of the Wellbeing and Exercise Lab at Iowa State. “Replacing sedentary time with housework or other light activities is something they may be able to do more consistently than going for an hour-long run.”

Getting more sleep is another doable change. Meyer said going to bed and waking up at the same time each day allows your body to recover and has multiple benefits.

It wasn’t just sleeping and light activity that were associated with improvements, however. Researchers discovered lower body fat and BMI resulted from moderate to vigorous activity.

“With everything happening right now, this is one thing we can control or manage and it has the potential to help our mental health,” Meyer said.