People with Type 2 diabetes who sit all day have a riskier blood fat mixture than those who move around or exercise periodically throughout the day, according to researchers in Australia.
“We have previously shown that interrupting prolonged sitting with light intensity activity after meals reduces risk factors for heart disease and diabetes, such as elevated blood sugars and high blood pressure,” said lead author Dr. Megan S. Grace from Baker Heart and Diabetes Institute and Monash University in Melbourne.
Past research has also shown that patients with Type 2 diabetes have an altered blood fat profile that contributes to inflammation and insulin resistance and that exercise can improve this profile.
“What we found interesting about this study was that breaking up sitting also reduces levels of lipids (fats) in the bloodstream that are associated with risk for Type 2 diabetes and its complications,” Grace said. “Our study showed that breaks which include either simple resistance exercise or light walking were generally equally beneficial in reducing blood lipids.”
Researchers looked at blood lipid profiles in 21 overweight or obese adults with Type 2 diabetes under three different conditions: sitting throughout the day (rising only to use the bathroom); breaking up sitting by light walking for three minutes every 30 minutes; and breaking up sitting by doing light exercise like squats and knee raises for three minutes every 30 minutes.
During sitting, and especially after meals, the lipid profile reflected an inflammatory state that also lacked the antioxidants needed to fight inflammation, according to the results in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism.
Both light walking and light exercise changed this profile into one that was less inflammatory and had a greater capacity for fighting inflammation. Light exercise also improved fat-burning capacity.
“Our current findings reinforce the message that avoiding prolonged periods of sitting, and finding ways to increase activity across the day, is beneficial for health,” Grace said. “In line with the recent American Diabetes Association position statement, we recommend interrupting sitting every 30 minutes with a few minutes of light intensity activity, in addition to regularly taking part in a structured exercise program.”
Her best advice: “Stand up, sit less, and move more—particularly after meals.”
“The results are novel and important because they identified new mechanisms to explain why sitting time has been linked with poor health,” said Dr. Sarah Kozey-Keadle from California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, who has studied ways to reduce sitting time and increase physical activity.
“Although not directly addressed in this report, the most important message related to physical activity is that exercise can prevent the onset of Type 2 diabetes and prevent complications for those who already have Type 2 diabetes,” she said.
“The second message is that there are health benefits for replacing and breaking up sitting time with activities that are not considered exercise, such as standing and lower intensity activities of daily living, especially for people who are currently less active.”