Sitting less and moving more may be more helpful for preventing Type 2 diabetes in at-risk individuals than engaging in vigorous physical activity, according to new research from the University of Leicester. Approximately 24 million people in the United States currently have Type 2, with millions more at risk of developing the condition.
Risk factors for developing Type 2 include a family history of the disease, high blood pressure, impaired glucose tolerance, metabolic syndrome, and low levels of physical activity, to name just a few. (Click here for a complete list of Type 2 risk factors.)
Current exercise guidelines recommend that at-risk people get at least 150 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous activity each week. To look at the health effects of sedentary time, time spent moving, time spent engaging in moderate-to-vigorous physical activity, and total physical activity in people at risk for Type 2, researchers analyzed 153 participants from the Project STAND study (29% men; average age of 33) and 725 participants from the Walking Away From Diabetes study (65% men; average age of 64). Activity levels were measured with instruments known as accelerometers.
Even after adjusting for time spent engaged in moderate-to-vigorous activity, the researchers found that more sedentary time was associated with poorer levels of HDL (“good”) cholesterol, triglycerides (a type of blood fat), and blood glucose levels. These findings were consistent across broad age ranges, indicating that excess sedentary time has negative consequences no matter a person’s age.
“Along with messages related to accumulating at least 150 min/week of [moderate-to-vigorous physical activity], which forms the cornerstone of diabetes-prevention programs, such interventions may be more effective if individuals are further encouraged to simply sit less and move more, regardless of the intensity level,” the study authors note.
Lead researcher Joseph Henson added that sedentary behavior is not just a lack of exercise, and that simply reducing sedentary time should not be used as a substitute for exercise.