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Science finally reveals why sitting at a computer all day is exhausting

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Sarah Biddlecombe
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We all know that irresistible feeling of wanting to faceplant our sofa after a long, strenuous day at the office.

But it can often feel like a bit of a cheat to be so exhausted after a day filled almost entirely with sitting – after all, our sedate office jobs rarely demand anything physical of us.

Happily, however, science seems to have found an explanation for that weary, bone-tired feeling that often accompanies a stressful day spent sitting at our desks – and it’s all down to a phenomenon called “mental fatigue”.

Just as exhausting as exercise, mental fatigue can wipe us out entirely, with overworking our brains for an extended period of time often being just as draining as going for a long run.

woman exercise

Mental fatigue can be just as exhausting as physical fatigue

And mental fatigue is so exhausting because our body’s response to a mentally taxing task, such as feeling stressed, is the same as its response to a physically taxing task.



“Your heart will pump and you’ll produce adrenaline whether somebody’s chasing you, or you’re just really upset about something,”  Dr. Steven Feinsilver, the director of sleep medicine at New York’s Lenox Hill Hospital, told The Cut.

woman at work

Our bodies have the same response to stress and physical exercise

The phenomenon can also be linked to our brains, which use a disproportionately high amount of our body’s energy supplies.

“Your muscles normally aren’t sucking a lot of oxygen out of you,” Feinsilver adds. “With exercise, they will. But the brain always takes a lot of your energy.”

So, rest assured the next time you cancel your plans because a day of sitting has worn you out – science has got your back.

Images: iStock / HBO

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Sarah Biddlecombe

Sarah Biddlecombe is an award-winning journalist and Digital Features Editor at Stylist

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