Diabetes Risk and A Sedentary Lifestyle
There have been many small studies in the past that have associated sitting, or being sedentary, with metabolic health outcomes. Recently, a large-scale study measured sedentary behavior among people with type 2 diabetes. Researchers used data from an extensive, population-based study, the Maastricht study, that focuses on the diagnosis of type 2 diabetes, aiming to pinpoint possible associations between the duration and pattern of sedentary behavior and the participants glucose metabolism and metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is present when you have tested positive for three or more factors, including abdominal obesity, high blood levels of triglycerides, low blood levels of “good” HDL cholesterol, high blood pressure (or use of medication to treat it), and high blood sugar levels after overnight fast (or use of diabetes medications).
The large study of over 2,000 participants, 52% of which are male with a mean age of 60, were given a standard test for glucose tolerance after an overnight fast to determine their diabetes status. To determine if they had metabolic syndrome, researchers measured HDL-cholesterol levels, fasting glucose levels, blood pressure, medication use and waist size. Whether the participant smoked, drank or had limited mobility was taken into account, as well.
Participants were then given an accelerometer, an instrument for measuring acceleration, to wear on their thigh for eight consecutive days. This instrument allowed researchers to calculate the daily amount of “total sedentary time, total sedentary breaks during waking time, prolonged bouts of sedentary breaks, and the average duration of those breaks.”
At the end of the study, 56% of participants had normal glucose metabolism; 15% were found to have impaired glucose metabolism and 714 had type 2 diabetes. Those found to have type 2 diabetes were more likely to consume more alcohol, have mobility limitations and a higher body mass index compared to the other participants in the study, said researchers.
For every hour spent sitting, researchers found the risk of developing diabetes to increase by 22%.
Researchers say, “Our finding could have important implications for public health, as they suggest that sedentary behavior may play a significant role in the development and prevention of type 2 diabetes, independent of high-intensity physical activity. Consideration should be given to including strategies to reduce the amount of sedentary time in diabetes prevention programs.”