(NaturalNews) Spending less of your waking hours sitting or lying down may do more to reduce your risk of Type II diabetes than meeting current recommendations for moderate or vigorous exercise, according to a study conducted by researchers from the University of Leicester and published in Diabetologia, the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes.
Type II diabetes occurs when the body loses its sensitivity to the hormone insulin, leading to higher levels of sugar in the blood. These elevated blood sugar levels can produce organ damage and other serious health problems over the long term. The greatest predictors of Type II diabetes risk are lifestyle factors such as activity levels, diet and obesity.
Currently, experts suggest that people at high risk of developing Type II diabetes engage in at least 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity (MVPA) per week. But the new study found that reducing the amount of time that people were sedentary (defined as moving very little or not at all) actually had a bigger impact.
"These studies provide preliminary evidence that sedentary behavior may be a more effective way to target the prevention of Type II diabetes, rather than just solely focusing on MVPA," lead researcher Joseph Henson said. "Moreover, sedentary time occupies large portions of the day, unlike MVPA."
"Paradigm shift" in prevention
The researchers used accelerometers to analyze total physical activity, MVPA, amount of sedentary time and breaks in sedentary time (defined as transitioning from sedentary to active) in 153 adults considered at high risk of developing Type II diabetes. All participants were taking part in either the Sedentary Time and Diabetes (STAND) or Walking Away from Diabetes study, and had initially been recruited from primary care.
Even after adjusting for the effects of other risk factors such as body fat levels and MVPA, participants who were most sedentary had significantly worse levels of 2 h glucose, triacylglycerol and HDL-cholesterol - all markers of diabetes risk.
The effect of being sedentary was actually more significant than the effect of MVPA or total physical activity. Notably, the findings were the same regardless of the age of the participants, indicating that being sedentary has just as detrimental an effect on young adults as on the elderly.
The findings suggest that activity recommendations for those at risk of diabetes may need to be radically revised, Henson suggested.
"Diabetes and cardiovascular prevention programs concentrating solely on MVPA may overlook an area that is of fundamental importance to cardiometabolic health," he said. "This approach requires a paradigm shift, so that individuals at high risk of developing Type II diabetes think about the balance of sedentary behavior and physical activity throughout the day."
"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," said Matthew Hobbs of Diabetes UK.
"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."