A University of Leicester study finds that overweight women could reduce their risk of type 2 diabetes by regularly standing or walking for five-minute bouts.
Researchers at the NIHR Leicester-Loughborough Diet, Lifestyle and Physical Activity Biomedical Research Unit (BRU) aimed to investigate if incorporating breaks into prolonged sitting could improve blood glucose levels among women with a high risk of type 2 diabetes.
Having a higher risk of type 2 diabetes is characterised by higher blood glucose levels than normal, and being obese or overweight can increase this risk. However, making appropriate dietary changes and getting more physical exercise can help return blood glucose levels to normal.
In this study, 22 overweight or obese women were randomly assigned to prolonged, unbroken sitting (7.5 hours) or prolonged sitting broken up with either standing or walking for five minutes every 30 minutes.
Participants who regularly stood up experienced reduced rises in blood glucose levels by 34 per cent compared to those in the prolonged, unbroken sitting group. This reduction was 28 per cent for bouts of standing. Insulin concentrations were also reduced for both activity conditions on the day of intervention when compared to the unbroken sitting group.
The observations regarding blood glucose (standing and walking) and insulin (walking only) also continued the day after intervention.
Lead researcher Dr. Joseph Henson said: “Breaking up prolonged sitting with five minute bouts of standing or walking at a self-perceived light intensity significantly reduced sugar and insulin responses in women at high risk of type 2 diabetes.
“This simple, behavioural approach could inform future public health interventions aimed at improving the metabolic profile of women at a high risk of type 2 diabetes. These findings may provide appealing interventional targets in the promotion of metabolic health.”
One limitation with this study is its small size. But while further studies are required to validate these findings in larger populations, advocating achievable exercise in people with a high risk of type 2 diabetes could yield tremendous health benefits.
The findings were published in the online journal Diabetes Care.

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