Each extra hour of daily inactivity, such as watching television, is associated with a 22 per cent increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes, according to new research.
Researchers at Maastricht University, the Netherlands believe their study is the largest in which an accelerometer – which classifies sedentary behaviour using data on posture – has been used to measure sedentary behaviour in a cohort of people with type 2 diabetes, impaired glucose tolerance and glucose metabolism.
2,497 volunteers used the thigh-worn activPAL3 accelerometer. They were asked to wear the device 24 hours per day for eight consecutive days. The mean age of the participants was 60, and 52 per cent were men.
The authors calculated their daily amounts of sedentary time, daily number of sedentary breaks and sedentary bouts of longer than 30 minutes. Participants underwent an oral glucose tolerance test to confirm their diabetes status: 28.6 per cent had type 2 diabetes, 55.9 per cent had normal glucose metabolism and 15.5 per cent had impaired glucose metabolism.
People with type 2 diabetes were the most inactive, spending up to 26 more minutes per day in sedentary situations in comparison with other participants.
The increased risk of type 2 diabetes per additional hour of sedentary time was 22 per cent. However, no significant associations were found for the number of sedentary breaks, the number of sedentary breaks over 30 minutes or average bout duration with diabetes status.
The authors, led by Julianne van der Berg, concluded: “These results suggest that sedentary behaviour may play a significant role in the development and prevention of type 2 diabetes, although longitudinal studies are needed to confirm our findings.
“Our findings could have important implications for public health. Consideration should be given to including strategies to reduce the amount of sedentary time in diabetes prevention programmes.”
The researchers believe that “sedentary behaviour at least party preceded type 2 diabetes”, but this study does not prove that being sedentary causes type 2 diabetes.
The findings were published in the journal Diabetologia.

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