Forget the gym: You could avoid diabetes by getting up to chat to a colleagueCutting the time people spend sitting down by 90 minutes a day could reduce Type 2 diabetes riskScientists in Leicester suggest physical activity advice should be amended as a consequence
Jenny Hope and Emma Innes
14:03 GMT, 28 February 2013
14:03 GMT, 28 February 2013
Being less sedentary all the time could be more beneficial than going to the gym, claim scientists
Forget the gym – getting up from your desk to chat to a colleague a few times a day may be all that is required to prevent Type 2 diabetes.
New research suggests people at high risk of developing diabetes may be able to escape the condition by cutting the time they spending sitting down by 90 minutes every day.
Consequently, official advice recommending 150 minutes of physical activity each week should be amended to encourage people to be less sedentary all the time, say studies from Leicester University.
They found important risk factors for Type 2 diabetes, such as blood glucose and cholesterol levels, improved far more in people told to sit less, compared with those doing required amounts of exercise.
Research leader Joseph Henson said: ‘These studies provide preliminary evidence that sedentary behaviour may be a more effective way to target the prevention of Type 2 diabetes, rather than just solely focusing on physical activity.
‘Moreover, sedentary time occupies large portions of the day, unlike moderate to vigorous physical activity.’
Type 2 diabetes mostly affects middle-aged people and occurs when the body gradually loses the ability to process blood sugar, leading to high levels which can damage body organs and years of ill-health.
It is strongly linked to lifestyle factors such as being overweight or obese, leading a sedentary lifestyle and eating an unhealthy diet.
Patients from two studies on activity levels and diabetes were investigated by a team from the Diabetes Research Unit at Leicester University.
The patients, who were at high risk of developing diabetes, ranged in age from early 30s to late 60s.
The team examined the extent to which sedentary time, breaks in sedentary time, vigorous exercise and total physical activity were linked with cardiometabolic risk factors in a population with known risk factors for Type 2 diabetes.
These include blood sugar and cholesterol levels.
Those who spent longer sitting down had risk factors that were 'detrimentally' linked to diabetes
They found those who spent longer periods of time sitting had risk factors that were ‘detrimentally’ linked to diabetes whatever their age.
Sedentary time had stronger links with negative scores than improvements brought about by vigorous exercise, says a report in Diabetologia (The journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes).
Mr Henson said the research suggested that cutting sitting time by 90 minutes a day would significantly help people at risk.
‘Along with messages related to accumulating at least 150 min per week of moderate to vigorous physical activity, which form the cornerstone of diabetes prevention programmes, such interventions may be more effective still if individuals are further encouraged to simply sit less and move more, regardless of the intensity level,’ he added.
There is growing evidence which suggests too much sitting – as opposed to insufficient activity – may be a new risk factor for premature death and illness.
The study comes after US research showing office workers who sit for more than four hours a day are at greater risk of chronic illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease.
It found those sitting for at least six hours were significantly more likely to have diabetes.
Dr Matthew Hobbs, Head of Research at Diabetes UK, said: ‘This study adds to the extensive evidence that spending a lot of time sitting or lying down is linked to an increased risk of Type 2 diabetes and that being more physically active can help to reduce this risk.
‘The suggestion that time spent sitting or lying down may be a more important indicator of poor health than a lack of moderate or vigorous exercise is interesting. However, this is not yet confirmed and must be proven with further research.
‘What is clear is that anyone who spends a lot of time sitting or lying down could benefit from spending more time being physically active, regardless of the type of activity involved.
‘Finding activities that you enjoy and can incorporate into your daily life, such as walking, gardening, DIY or housework, is the best way to achieve this.’